God was powerfully at work during Holy Week and Easter throughout the Rio Texas Annual Conference. Churches continued to seek innovative approaches to reach the mission field in new ways with the powerful message of the death and resurrection of Jesus. New people found their way to new places to hear the Gospel message proclaimed.
University United Methodist Church, San Antonio has a tradition of reaching out to the community through music. It was through expressing the message in music and the enthusiasm of the musicians that the church saw a record attendance on Good Friday.
University saw 1364 packed into its standing-room-only sanctuary as the choir and orchestra led worship through Dan Forrest's Requiem for the Living. When asked about the increase in attendance, Rev. Ben Trammell, Lead Pastor of University credited the excitement of those involved with the production.
"The participants were so excited and moved by what they were a part of that they invited their friends, neighbors, and family," said Trammell. "It is pretty contagious when people are excited about what they are doing."
Tarrytown United Methodist Church, Austin was blessed this year to have some more space for their crowds through a partnership with a neighborhood church. Every year, Tarrytown struggles to have enough space for people and cars on Easter Sunday. This year, The Sanctuary Baptist church across the street was able to help and fill a need of their own.
The Sanctuary Baptist Church and Tarrytown began a relationship a couple of years ago when Tarrytown's Senior Pastor Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones and a few TUMC leaders met "as neighbors" with members of the small congregation after their pastor had left.
"I was able to simply listen to them with my experience as a former District Superintendent and my knowledge of the struggles small congregations face," said Jones.
The Sanctuary recently said goodbye to another pastor and had no one to preach on Easter Sunday. What began as a casual conversation ended as a wonderful opportunity for both churches. Tarrytown added a seventh Easter service with a third 11:00 am service at The Sanctuary and members of that church were able to hear the Gospel preached on Easter. Tarrytown Associate Rev. Missy Jenson volunteered to preach and TUMC provided music and plenty of lilies.
"Worship was wonderful," said Jenson. "And we had beautiful lilies for The Sanctuary members to take home, which they were delighted by." David Chambers, Tarrytown's Director of Youth Ministries, helped carry a lily to a couple’s car and the man told him, “That was the message I needed to hear.”
First United Methodist Church, Gonzales reached new people during Holy Week through a movie screening and an Easter Egg hunt. "We wanted to have many different ways people could hear the Gospel and respond to God’s love and Grace in their lives," said Rev. Matt Pennington, Pastor of First UMC, Gonzales. "Our increase was simply from offering more options and more variety for people to meet with Christ."
Those options included a free showing of The Passion of the Christ at the local movie theater, which had 180 present between the movie showing and the team that ministered to children during the film. The church, with an average attendance of approximately 250 people, also hosted an Easter Egg hunt with an estimated 300 in attendance.
"We tried to do everything we could to help people in Gonzales have the chance to encounter Christ during Holy Week through different approaches," said Pennington.