Recently there have been multiple times I've found myself telling a group of folks how proud I am of St. Barnabas United Methodist Church and her people. We are a great and diverse congregation. Often, if there is a gathering of six people, there will be seven opinions present -- and that's a good thing! At St. Barnabas, it is a wonderful thing because those people are comfortable in sharing their opinions, but they do not share with rancor. Folks around here tend listen to each other with respect.
On Sunday, December 2, from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m., we will have a formal opportunity to put that respect into practice.
We have sent out multiple pieces of communication regarding the current conversation within the United Methodist Church regarding GLBTQ+ concerns as we head toward the Called General Conference of February 2019. We are setting aside the afternoon of December 2 to gather as a congregation around tables. We will be in diverse groups. We are especially asking our youth and Journey folk to make every effort to be present. The purpose of this afternoon is to listen to each other, to share our common hopes and dreams. The purpose of the day is not to take a side or to put any perspective down but to share hearts. Unlike the world around us, we come to listen to each other and to treat one another with dignity and respect.
Rev. Jason Valendy is from Saginaw United Methodist Church where he and his wife, Estee, are co-pastors. Rev. Jason is also a part of our elected leadership to General Conference. Rev. Jason will be with us on December 2 to help walk us through a video presentation, to facilitate two questions to discuss at our tables and, third, to take the opportunity to write one question per table to be presented to a panel group for response. We will have some great refreshments, hear the responses from the panel and then go home. We have asked Dr. Luther Henry to come back for this conversation as well, and he has agreed.
There are several folks who are being asked to be trained as discussion leaders at tables. That training will take place from about 1:50-2:20 p.m. the same day in the Sanctuary.
We invite you to make this very, very important conversation in the life of our church a priority on your schedule. St. Barnabas is a congregation whose people have a wide variety of theological perspectives - that is part of the very core strength that makes us who we are! And, we are able to work together for the Kingdom of God, right here, right now. We are diverse in perspective and unified in mission and ministry! We have been since the very beginnings of this congregation as a Presbyterian/Methodist church. Will you come and join us as we continue to move forward together?
It is a blessing to be your pastor! I love this church and am very, very proud to be a part of you!
Rev. Virginia O. (Ginger) Bassford, PhD
Those of you who know me well, know that I have struggled for many years, to the point of despair, over our beloved United Methodist Church and the real possibility of schism. I am a United Methodist by choice. The UMC is not my heritage. I am not a "cradle Methodist." I grew up American Lutheran and attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran parochial school, 1st through 6th grades. That means I know what living with laws, guilt and shame, and a vison of God that is punitive is like.
At the age of 30, when we had driven past the First United Methodist Church in Dripping Springs, Texas for over three years, I was finally bitten by the Methodist Bug. Thank God! It was through the voice of our beloved United Methodist pastor, Reverend Grady Roe that we not only learned about grace - grace was extended to us. It was through the arms of the United Methodist Church that I was birthed into ministry. It was with the hands of United Methodists that I participated in my first mission trip (to Appalachia, with the Appalachia Service Project which was then United Methodist). It was a Bishop of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Joe Wilson, who invited me to live into my call and took a great risk by allowing this (then) seminary student to dream of and create the Central Texas Conference Youth in Mission program. Bishop Wilson risked over 300 youth and adults (including himself and members of the Central Texas Conference cabinet) to my leadership and organizational skills as we made the trek to a post-flooded Missouri.
Members of St. Barnabas UMC, the church where I currently serve, were on that first trip. Larry Arnold, Tom Bonjour and others were in St. Joseph, Missouri on that first endeavor in 1994. Wow. What goes around, comes around! But, I digress.
I love the United Methodist Church! I love her in all her brokenness and in all her glory! I love her people (a majority of the time), and I love her focus on personal piety, scriptural holiness, and social justice. I love her focus on God as a grace-filled, abundant, generous God! How can we think of anything but God as that?!
So the thought of this beloved church being ripped into shreds makes me want to vomit like I did when I had food poisoning as a senior in high school. The thought of future generations losing the gifts God has given to me, to our communities, to our world through the United Methodist Church causes me to despair.
BUT this is NOT a message of despair! I write tonight because for the first time in many, many years I have HOPE. I have hope that our beloved church will not die. I have hope that our beloved church will not be ripped into shreds.
A few of you have noticed that I've posted pictures on my Facebook page from the Uniting Methodist Conference I've been attending since Monday. This conference was a gathering of people who have very, very divergent opinions when it comes to matters of human sexuality. But we are not willing to allow the church to be destroyed because of our opinions; because of a "strict reading of Scripture," or especially because of scriptural interpretation. We are those who are willing to "draw the circle wide" so that we can remain united in purpose and mission -- to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World!
Were all the questions answered? Heavens no! Is there pain? Absolutely! Will this work be difficult and challenging? You bet! And at the same time it is GOOD and GODLY work! Is it perfect? Nope. Even John Wesley did not believe we had arrived at perfection, but that we were "moving on to perfection."
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the time is here. Let us take the hands of those who are "not like us" in WHATEVER way that may be -- even Traditionalists and Progressives -- and together move forward as The United Methodist Church!
Thank you God, for the hope that is in my heart this night. May it move me to courage and compassion for all God's children. But especially, Merciful God, may it move us toward a future with hope for our children and grandchildren who are yet to come to faith in you. Amen.
Rev. Virginia O. (Ginger) Bassford, PhD
NEW FAITH COMMUNITY BEGINS APRIL 8
MARCH 9, 2018
I am pleased to announce that St. Barnabas United Methodist Church has received a $10,000 grant from the Central Texas Annual Conference for the beginning of a new faith community! Our 9:30 a.m. worship service will be revamped and become Traditional Unplugged beginning April 8th (the first Sunday after Easter) with the specific target of those who are not yet here. The SPRC, with the blessing of Mr. Mark Husband, approved the hire of Mr. David Pfleger to lead the music component in this service. The funds are designated for this Traditional Unplugged service, for the musical staff, advertisement and any special instrumentation or music needed.
What will happen to Mark Husband, Kacy Choi and the Chancel Choir? They will be free to rehearse for the 11:00 a.m. service! David will utilize all our musical talent in the 9:30 a.m. Traditional Unplugged service, just not everyone, every Sunday. Mark will be a voice of consultation and feedback. Chancel Choir members will be able to fully participate in Sunday School. Everyone walks away a winner! Most importantly, we have a new opportunity to introduce and re-introduce new people to Christ!
We will need our current 9:30 a.m. worship attendees to remain faithful to the Traditional Unplugged service. In addition, we will need for our Sunday School classes to also be intentional about helping us get started with this service. In a new church start, faithful church members are aware that it is their opportunity and responsibility for the good of the whole to attend the new worshiping body. Persons are actually "sent" as missioners to the new start. If our congregation could take on this attitude so that the new service is filled with high energy, that would be wonderful (and sacrificial). That doesn't mean we give up our regular, "favorite" service. It does mean that some Sundays folks attend worship -- twice!
Why are we doing this now? Because the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expect different results (Einstein). Our 9:30 worship service has dwindled in numbers. A few people (2 or 3) have requested that we stop the 9:30 worship service. But stopping the service would mean that 50 or so folks would lose the service they prefer to attend. The Central Texas Annual Conference offered this opportunity and we were awarded a grant. It seems foolish to not try and bring new life to an existing service. With Traditional Unplugged we might energize St. Barnabas! We might bring in new folks! We might be able to use this opportunity to grow!
We ask our Prayer Team to begin praying for the Traditional Unplugged service to be blessed with new people who are searching for God, for our evangelism team to be filled with people who want to greet and welcome newcomers to St. Barnabas and for our congregation as a whole to be engaged and excited as together we begin a new thing for Jesus Christ.
WE ARE ST. BARNABAS!
Rev. Ginger Bassford