Sunday, September 12, 2010


East District Laity Celebrate Partnership With Clergy

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Lions and lambs join forces:
East District Laity Celebrate Partnership with Clergy

It was reminiscent of lions and lambs dining together, singing hymns, discussing theology, actualizing age-old prophecy.

Ten-dollar dinners in cardboard boxes, appropriately blessed to unplugged, acoustic sounds (Crying Holy Unto The Lord) supplied by Cuthand UMC’s old-time string band, Cuthand Creek, kicked off the North Texas Conference’s (NTC) only continuing annual Laity Celebration—with a healthy sprinkling of clergy--at Greenville’s Wesley UMC Family Life Center on Sunday evening, Sept. 12.

That would be the old/new East District, which combines all the old Paris-Sulphur Springs District churches, plus all the new additions from NTC’s Strategic Plan reorganization, adopted at Annual Conference in June, for a grand total now of 91 churches, most of whom viewed a PowerPoint presentation here of “Ministry Moments” during the past year from their own congregations.

New District Superintendent, Rev. Paul Gould, no doubt devoted overtime to plan this first key event of his new administration for his new District.

By the time everyone had consumed superior sandwiches of sliced cheese and cold cuts, sipped gallons of iced tea and heard heavenly sounds by Cuthand Creek (Mansion Over The Hilltop), guitarist/singer Kolton Hall (How Great Thou Art) of Mulberry UMC (near Bonham) and an impressive District “combined choir” (We Are Your People, O God) directed by Joan Wright of Wesley UMC, the mood was clear, and would be repeated several times by this Celebration’s keynote speaker, Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe:

“The blessing is in the room!”

It was the Bishop’s way of speaking to his selection of Scripture, Ephesians 4:4-8, 11-16, which dwells on the Body of Christ and His gifts of the Spirit which equip and empower us to do the work He calls us to do.

“Each of us receives a particular gift,” emphasized Bishop Bledsoe, whose primary concern appeared to be one of encouraging cooperation between laity and clergy. “We need each other,” he added. “And neither of us should ever regard the other as an ‘enemy’ because we are all on the same team and must stay together—both outwardly and inwardly.”

The Bishop spoke of the need for leadership in making the new Strategic Plan work: “But leadership is a team sport, especially when accompanied by prayer,” he said.

For example, Bishop Bledsoe quoted Conference Lay Leader Richard Hearne’s suggestion that all of us attempt to mentor a young person, which he acknowledged as a good idea. However, the Bishop countered that with another suggestion, from Rev. Jim Ozier, NTC Director of Church Transformation, who believes that all of us should try to find a young person who is willing to mentor us, and help adults better understand the needs of young people!

Whether our current mission is to understand the needs of young people or to help eradicate malaria from the African Continent by the year 2015, one thing is for sure, said the Bishop:

“The blessing is in the room!”

That’s because of at least two things: The Connectional System of the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Scriptural Promise that the Spirit equips and empowers us to do whatever He calls us to do: “With our Connectional System, we can probably eradicate malaria from Africa earlier, perhaps by 2014, in part because United Methodists believe in vital piety and social witness.”

Here, Bishop Bledsoe cited Jesus’ example with the original 12 Disciples: “These were guys who didn’t really understand Jesus at first, but they were sufficiently obedient to tell everybody about the Good News, thus ensuring by their example that the Church would continue to grow, because we continue to do that today.

“The blessing is in the room!

“We need to support each other,” explained the Bishop. “We need to pray for each other. We need to bear each other’s burdens. We need each other.”

At this point, Bishop Bledsoe praised Rev. Gould, recently appointed as Superintendent of the new East District: “This is a new District, with a lot of work to be done, and I think Paul is the one to make it happen. In fact, I’d say that we have one of the finest teams in all of Methodism here:

“The blessing is in the room!

“Pray that God will take Paul, and all of us, to a new level of ministry,” concluded the Bishop. “Amen, amen, amen.”

After the Bishop’s charge, Associate District Lay Leader David Stanton of Tinney Chapel UMC dedicated the offering of time and treasure, to the healing and Hope of God’s people in Africa though the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign.

“Did you know that every 30 seconds an innocent child in Africa dies of malaria?” asked Stanton, rhetorically. “And, we have a chance to make a difference.

“Imagine No Malaria is a ministry of the people of the world-wide UMC to eliminate death and suffering from malaria in Africa by 2015,” explained Stanton, who called on the leadership of the East District to set the example for NTC.

“Just take time to Google the program, Imagine No Malaria, and learn about the five-step plan and let’s take it back to our 91 congregations, then mobilize them to give of their time and treasure to make eradication happen.

“One child means the world to all of us.”

In his offertory prayer, Stanton called on God to help the East District take ownership of Imagine No Malaria and strengthen us to make this cause a reality for our African brothers and sisters.

District Lay Leader Ben Bennett also called on this Laity Celebration congregation for continued support, as did District Superintendent, Rev. Gould.

Other worship leaders who participated in this event included Lori Massey, District Lay Speaking Director, Melba Harris, Associate District Lay Speaking Director, Sarah Perkins, Youth Representative to Annual Conference, Chris Bullok, organist, Carol Clayton, pianist and Rev. Gene Wisdom, host pastor of Wesley UMC, Greenville.

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