On Sunday, December 6, 2015, the Rev. Sharon Stewart baptized twenty people at Parker Lane United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. Parker Lane has seen itself as a Christian presence in their neighborhood for many years and their vision, “Everybody is somebody, and Christ is for all” is repeated by the whole congregation on most Sundays.
There is a large Matu speaking population in the church's neighborhood who immigrated to the United States as refugees having fled their home country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). These faithful people flee their home country to South Korea or Malaysia and wait for years until they are allowed to immigrate to the United States. Parker Lane started a relationship with their Matu-speaking neighbors that was initiated with an agreement to provide space for prayer meetings in Matu and has blossomed into a transformation of the church. In May, Parker Lane received 50 adults into membership.
Pastor Stewart continues to deepen the church’s identity as a mission field center for the neighborhood. Her skill in making sure that all voices are heard, whether they are speaking English, Spanish, Matu, Burmese, or Sign Language, has broadened the church’s ability to share Jesus with their neighbors and their neighborhood. The entire church celebrated baptism with many in their Matu-speaking family, as parents brought their children to be baptized and teenagers came on their own. The whole church made the commitment always made at baptism, to surround these young ones “with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God and be found faithful in their service to others.”