By Lindsay Peyton
The past year brought a whirlwind of change to the Texas Annual Conference. The landscape has been altered after numerous churches exited. Bishop Scott Jones retired, and Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey was appointed the new bishop during the November Jurisdictional Conference. Even in the midst of trials, tribulations and loss, our churches have stayed true to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Congregations continued to reach into their mission fields. Pastors won innovation grants to start new ministries, and young clergy explored their callings.
As we celebrate a new beginning, let’s take a moment to look back at the heartwarming Cross Connection stories of 2022. Summarized below, these stories recognize congregations that have united for worthy causes, celebrated diversity, demonstrated their commitment to their community and loved their neighbors.
- Loose Threads sewing circle helps needy kids
At Huntington UMC, sewing machines are humming for a number of worthy causes. The church’s Loose Threads ministry provides blankets for adoptions, assembles birthday surprise boxes for foster children and repairs clothes for a local senior center. Members also make clothes and bags for children in Child Protective Services, who often are removed from their homes in a hurry. Congregation member Sandy Sheffield founded the women’s sewing circle. All of the machines were donated. “All we have to do is show up,” Sheffield said. “And we all stay busy.”
- First Black female senior pastor appointed to Westbury UMC
Rev. Eleanor Colvin was appointed to serve at Westbury UMC in 2022. She is the first Black female senior pastor appointed to the post. As a fourth-generation Methodist, Colvin has ministered in a variety of capacities and previously served as the Director of Communications for the TAC. She formerly served as pastor at St. Paul’s in Houston and FUMC College Station. A Houston native, Rev. Colvin earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University, a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater from the University of Houston and a Master of Divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Colvin said, “I’m honored to hold the distinction as the first Black woman (senior) pastor. Prayerfully, I won’t be the last. I’m looking forward to being part of a community that looks more like the world, that looks more like Houston and that looks more like God’s vision for the Church. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the most segregated hour is Sunday morning worship, and in many ways, Westbury is defying that assumption.”
- Finding Jesus in Prison
Christ Church Sugar Land’s restorative justice ministry helps the incarcerated experience mercy, compassion and Christ’s unconditional love. Volunteers lead Bible studies, assist prisoners’ families during Christmas and hand out water bottles to officers coming into and leaving the prison in the Cool Water Ministry. There’s also the opportunity to lead spiritual retreats, Kairos and Jubilee. Ministry leader Betty Waedemon explained that the restorative justice ministry at Christ Church has been going for more than three decades. She personally got involved about 23 years ago, responding to a posting in the church bulletin. “I’ve seen lives change and families come together,” she said. “I just see things all the time, God working in amazing ways.”
- Member at UMC Madisonville coordinates effort to send $1.2 million in medical supplies to Ukraine
In June, we first featured the Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to delivering medical supplies to Ukraine, even in the midst of war. The organization’s founder Lena Denman is a member of FUMC Madisonville. Her recent work was largely made possible by significant grants from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), part of United Methodist Global Ministries. Cross Connection reached out to Denman again in December to learn about the Foundation’s efforts to deliver toys to hospitalized children and spread joy during Christmas. By the end of the month, more than 130 gifts were received by children in Kyiv at the Children’s Center for Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery and the Heart Institute. Denman is driven by Scripture, pointing to James, “Faith without deeds is dead.” She says, “Loving our neighbor is not just about our neighbor next door. We have a Biblical imperative to help people wherever they are suffering.”
- Church and medical school join hands to serve unhoused
The second story at Galveston Central Church has been transformed into a medical clinic for the island’s unhoused population. The clinic was created in collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Rev. Michael Gienger said that an unexpected email from Professor Miles Farr at the medical school eventually led to the partnership. Dr. Farr learned about the church’s work through students who volunteered there. “I heard about the great work they were doing at Central with a population who had a lot of social needs,” he said. Rev. Gienger explained that the clinic functions in conjunction with all of the other services provided at Central for those in need. He believes that churches can take a role to ensure that both souls and bodies are cared for. “We’re convinced that spiritual life is part of our actual life,” he said. “And we’ve really outsourced a lot of work that should be up to us.”