Sunday afternoon we started our yearly Cabinet Inventory Retreat. Once again we face a rising number of retirements. We are in the beginning states of implementing a new LASP (Learning Agility Sustained Performance) model for assessing clergy gifts and graces as well as a new SP/KP (Sustained Performance/Kingdom Potential) model for assessing the mission and ministry of each local church. As we consider the next appointive steps to take, we will go through careful and prayerful reflection on each pastor involved and each church considered. I am asking for prayers that our work might be saturated by the Holy Spirit’s guidance and result in still greater faithfulness and fruitfulness.
While we begin making appointments for Annual Conference 2016, the work will not be finished until our June 8th fixing of appointments at the close of Conference. Even then, the Cabinet’s appointive work is not fully completed. The complexities of life for both clergy and churches almost inevitably dictate that some appointments will take place during the following year.
As we gather, there are some significant celebrations which I desire to report back on and lift up. As I have repeatedly stated, one of the truly great works of the United Methodist Church is the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). UMCOR operates not only around the world but also right here in the Central Texas Conference.
To refresh our memory, on April 17, 2013 (almost three years ago!) a fertilizer plant in West, Texas caught fire and exploded. UMCOR, through the Central Texas Disaster Relief time under Rev. Laraine Waughtal’s leadership, immediately moved in to offer relief. They did not just come for the short term but have stay to help people in the community (not just Methodists or Christians) rebuild and move forward with life. A “hallmark” of UMCOR’s ministry is that we are there in disaster recovery situations for the long haul and not just the visible short term.
I asked Rev. Waughtal to put together a follow up report I could share. The following are excerpts from her report:
“I am so proud of our conference and our team in West. They are amazing! … Our reports are not done and will not be for another couple of months. We still have about four file drawers that our data person is working on –she is entering data as cases are closed out. We still have five homes we are working on. Our goal is to be complete by the April 17th anniversary this year. … if you add up all the figures to date … handled by UMCOR and the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church [the total] is $5,367,292.77! We should easily go by the $6 million mark. Part of the reason cases are not closed yet is we are also surveying all of our clients and we will not close files until the work is complete.
Unfortunately, these numbers do not include other agencies and what they invested into the community like Red Cross, Salvation Army and area churches. We have no way to capture that. It also does not include the more than $600,000 we have invested into 8 case managers, a part-time construction manager and data specialist along with all of our administrative work and so many other people who have impacted this event.
All of this involves touching the lives of 630 cases (individuals and families!), which is the most important part. Our conference also responded with many Early Response Teams to help people recover their belongings in the first month and to make the few homes that were able to safe and secure. We also responded with volunteers for rebuilds and repairs.”
To which I respond – WOW! I give thanks to God for your faithfulness through the United Methodist Church. Together we are living Matthew 25, “I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me” (Matthew 25:40).
On a related subject, the Central Texas Conference received an emergency $10,000 grant in January to help with relief for victims of tornado damage in the Ellis County/Glenn Heights area (around Ovilla, Texas). A mid-January report notes the following churches involved:
Morgan Mill UMC
St. John the Apostle
Community of Hope
I am quite conscious that this list is incomplete. Since then a significant number of other churches have responded. One of the signs of a healthy disciple-making church is an outward focus serving their community and transforming our world. We are seeing outwardly focused churches share the love Christ and neighbor in abundance. I thank God for your life giving ministry!