Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rev. Dr. Beverly Jones: Still a United Methodist after all these years

I was born and reared a Methodist; was in Sunday worship from before I was born; was baptized after I came into the world; went to kindergarten and Sunday school in childhood, UMYF and choir as a youth.  My family never pushed church or religion.  It was just a part of our lives; a part of who we were.  We prayed at meals, we talked about life and faith, and sat together in the pew on Sundays.  Quietly and without fanfare we grew in our relationship with God, with each other and with those beyond our family circle.  It was all a part of being family, of being Christian, of being Methodist.

But there is more.  And, it is simply this.  The United Methodist Church has provided a place for me to continue to grow in the love of God. It has given me a place in the world to engage my faith and to serve others.   In our day and age, we often take the “institutional church” for granted and often belittle it for lack of relevance, its slowness to change or the cumbersome way it goes about being church.  But, for me, it has provided a structure, a place, a people, a continued “way of being” and the opportunity to serve without which my life would be much diminished.  To be able to worship in a church where all are welcome and where at the bottom line, it is all about God’s love, feeds my soul.  To be able to serve in professional ministry that is accountable to others through the annual conference, the fellowship of elders and the people with whom I serve, inspires me to the intentionality of following Christ.  To participate in the rich history of our tradition equips me to be open to the new things God is doing in my life, in the church and in the world.  Yes, I am still a United Methodist after all these years; thankful that God isn’t done with me, or our church, just yet!

Rev. Dr. Beverly Jones is the university chaplain at United Methodist related Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.  An active member of the New Mexico Conference, Beverly has held appointments in the local church and as district superintendent. She serves on the Conference Envisioning Team, Ministry Leadership Team and is a member of the 2012 General and Jursidictional Conference delegation.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

They never met in life, but their mission work together helps those in need

Article originally posted on UMC Connections

By Sam Hodges*

The Rev. Don Woolley and the late Willie Tichenor never met. Yet the stories of these two United Methodists have become intertwined, with clear and growing results in Christian mission.
Woolley is a mop-haired chemical engineer-turned pastor in Mobile, Ala., who believes The United Methodist Church must rediscover John Wesley’s practice of taking Christian witness beyond the church walls, including to the poorest neighborhoods.
“We’re here today because he did and we’re failing today because we don’t,” said Woolley, an elder in the Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference.
Tichenor died in 2006, at age 19, of osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. The Dallas youth lived life to the full, relishing sports, music, drama — and mission trips.
Even in the middle of chemotherapy, he traveled to Juarez, Mexico with others from Dallas’ Highland Park United Methodist Church to help build homes.
“Willie was a little bit of a handful as a younger child,” said his mother, Lisa Tichenor. “He grew up a lot through his participation in mission trips.”
In 2007, Lisa and husband Mac Tichenor used money from the sale of the family radio station business to create the QuadW Foundation in memory of their son. The name stands for `What Would Willie Want?’
The Tichenors recruited to the foundation’s board young friends of Willie’s, as well as Willie’s brother, Taylor.
“We call them the board kids, though they’re all really adults now,” said Lisa Tichenor.
One of the older “kids” was Johnny Peters, who had been a youth leader with Willie at Highland Park United Methodist Church.
Peters would move from Texas to Alabama, where he directs the Wesley Foundation at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile. There he became close friends with Woolley and told him about Willie Tichenor.
“He was interested in the story from the start,” Peters said. “He had no clue what might come of that. He was just interested in it because Willie was important to me.”

New plan
Woolley, influenced by the Australian missional church leader Alan Hirsch, had already created something called Jesus Tribe, an effort to bring a Christian witness to bars, housing projects and arts venues.

“We were taking the church to people, and we were reaching lost people, but ultimately it fizzled,” said Woolley, who had continued to lead a church fulltime. “We didn’t have a financially stable model.”
Woolley shared with Peters a new plan, for a missional leadership training program that would have college-age Christians living and working in some of Mobile’s toughest neighborhoods.
“It just kind of clicked,” Peters said. “I thought, `This is what QuadW was created for.’”
Peters arranged for Woolley to submit a proposal to fellow QuadW board members.
“We trusted Johnny’s instincts,” said Lisa Tichenor.

Changed lives, changed churches
Since 2009, Woolley has, with the help of the Rev. Jean Tippit, another United Methodist pastor, operated a summer internship program, with QuadW providing $2,000 stipends for each participant.
The goal is three-fold: to give the interns a transformational Christian experience; to serve the underserved; and to help United Methodist churches, especially in transitional neighborhoods, connect better with those in their midst.
For eight weeks, interns live either in an old parsonage or adapted Sunday School rooms, with local United Methodist Churches providing their meals. The program includes regular Bible study and readings in books on missional Christianity.
Work assignments range from running day camps and Vacation Bible Schools to assisting in an inner-city medical clinic and repairing roofs for low-income residents. Mobile is home to many recently-arrived refugees from the Middle East, and interns have helped them to find their way in a much different culture.
Wes Anderson, now youth leader at Spanish Fort United Methodist Church near Mobile, recalled being part of the first intern class, helping to run a Vacation Bible School in one of greater Mobile’s poorest areas.
“You see Jesus so clearly working with those kids in the neighborhood,” Anderson said. “We (interns) got back to college and we weren’t the same people.”
One of the churches that has welcomed interns and felt their influence is St. Mark United Methodist in Mobile.
“Through the hard work of the interns, a church that had no Vacation Bible School in 2009 had
over 50 children at Vacation Bible School in 2010,” said the Rev. Brian Miller, St. Mark’s pastor.
He added that some of those children have stayed active in the church, and that the interns had spurred St. Mark to reach out in other ways, such as opening its gym for supervised play in the afternoons.

Kindred spirit
This summer, Woolley expanded the internship program to Kansas City, Kans. He found local support from an ecumenical group of churches, including the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kans., with a shared commitment to serving the inner city.
Seven interns, as well as a chaperoning married couple, occupied a restored home in a low-income Kansas City neighborhood, and from that base ran a day camp, helped tend a community garden and joined in worship and Bible study at a Hispanic United Methodist church nearby. The QuadW Foundation provided stipends for those interns as well.
And now, through an arrangement with the Alabama-West Florida Conference and Mobile District, QuadW is paying the salary portion of Woolley’s compensation package, so he can devote fulltime to running the internship program and to helping engage Mobile-area United Methodist churches in local mission work.
“I’m very grateful to QuadW, the bishop (Paul Leeland) and the conference,” Woolley said. “It allows me to say `yes’ to the things I feel God is calling me to do, and still be an active part of The United Methodist Church.”
Woolley hopes to expand the internship program to two or three more cities by as early as next summer, and envisions a network of such sites.
QuadW, with assets of about $11 million, funds sarcoma research, college and arts scholarships and “WillieBuild” low-income housing projects, in connection with Habitat for Humanity.
The foundation also has committed $800,000 over the next five years to helping Woolley build the network of missional internships.
“We have a lot of confidence in Don’s abilities,” Lisa Tichenor said. “He’s always more than carried out what he’s said he’s going to do.”
Woolley originally called the program 3.0 Missional Leadership Training Program, but has renamed it the QuadW Missional Internship.
He did so in recognition of the foundation’s support and as a kindred spirit of Willie Tichenor.
“From the stories I’ve heard,” Woolley said, “he was this filled-with-joy person who lived life passionately and loved serving others.”

*Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rev Larry Hollon: Why UMC

My father was an itinerant oilfield worker. From my earliest memory we moved from town to town following the oil rigs to new locations. By my calculation we moved about every six months until I was thirteen.

As a result of this nomadic lifestyle it was difficult to make friends and get connected to the small towns where we took up temporary residence. We were outsiders. It was during this time that I first heard the phrase “oilfield trash.”

I was too young to understand its meaning until I was a teenager, but when I realized how we were viewed it was humiliating.

Despite this, there was another piece of the story that makes me thankful and it may have been a reason for my deafness to the way we were perceived.

In every dusty, little oilfield town where we located there was a Methodist Church. (This was before the merger that created The United Methodist Church.)  And those churches offered vacation church school and Boy Scouts and youth activities that gave me continuity and a safe place to land.

They didn’t call me oilfield trash, they called me by my name. And I never forgot that.

Because of the hospitality of the people of The United Methodist Church, I became a Methodist.

UMCOM interprets the mission and ministry of the church to its global audiences through print, internet, television and radio. Before joining UMCOM, Rev. Hollon produced videos on global economic development, human rights and ecumenical programs to address poverty. He and his spouse Sharon have two daughters and a son.