As I begin my second year in the Texas Conference, I find myself in a reflective and optimistic mood. When I arrived in this office on January 3, 2023, I was excited and terrified all in the same breath. It did not take me long to realize that I was exactly where God wanted and needed me to be.
I was welcomed by lay and clergy who were ready for a new day, ready to see what God had in store – they were exhausted and depleted in many ways AND they were ready and knew that God was doing a new thing, and they didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be a part of God’s new and holy plan!
We accomplished so much in a short time. As I look back, I am not exactly sure how we were able to do what we did in such a compressed amount of time.
I spent the year listening and re-learning a Conference I thought I knew. I met with many, many people. The 7 visits around the conference made it abundantly clear that this was a new conference filled with faithful and resilient followers of Jesus. It was more apparent than ever that God was with us and the road before us, while uncertain, was paved with prayer.
Given the realities it was obvious change was and continues to be in our future.
Moving from 9 to 5 superintendents was the right next step. I presented the idea to the Conference Leadership Team at our first meeting in February and they confidently said, “why don’t we just present a resolution at annual conference to move from 9 districts to 5?” My response was, “we don’t have enough time and there is much to do before we get to annual conference.” The CLT took my negative response and quickly turned it into action. Members of the CLT worked with clergy at the clergy gathering just a few days later, met with lay and clergy leaders across the conference and drafted a resolution by mid-March that passed at Annual Conference without a question and was nearly unanimous.
Annual Conference was a shift in the conference tectonic plates. We sat at tables, we had conversations, there was no bickering instead there was as a divine uniting.
A beautiful resolution entitled, “A Resolution For Our New Life Together in the Texas Annual Conference,” painted a picture that took us to the precipice of possibility to ReVive. ReNew. ReInvigorate and ReImagine a new way of being, a new way of living into our intended call.
Be it further resolved that the Texas Annual Conference works for a culture marked by compassion, courage, and companionship, such that the following measures are true in our life together:
● Annual Conference is an occasion of reunion marked with joy and hospitality
● Districts are strengthened by the sharing of knowledge and resources between congregations
● Clergy health is improved because of deep, meaningful friendships
● Young clergy and candidates for ministry find and connect with mentors, who equip them for a life of friendship.
While acknowledging the recent disaffiliations, there is a prevailing sense of settling. We are embracing a new normal, filled with hope and not yet seen possibilities. This transformative period is marked by curiosity and a renewed focus on vitality spurred by the generous $1.25 million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment.
Moving forward, you will begin to hear more about new measures of vitality – clarity, witness, abundance, kinship, and joy. It is so exciting. I cannot wait to see how these measures of vitality begin to seep into our culture.
Our approach to our work is evolving as we align with our realities. Excitement is brewing as more individuals express enthusiasm to serve where needed as committees adapt to new ways of approaching ministry.
I love to hear from you! Your imagination, creativity and collaborative Spirit is so exciting! I always love when a good idea comes together and is shaped by grace as we connect with others for even greater possibilities. Keep the ideas coming!!!
A new way of “being” and “doing” conference work is afoot as the nominations process aligns with our realities. More people are excited about serving wherever they are needed. Committees are forming and re-forming the way they do ministry. Our footprint in the 53 counties in this part of Texas is growing and even more importantly it is deepening.
Friends, the Spirit is moving among us. Today brings extravagant generosity, love and unforeseen possibilities. We are the resilient and resolute Texas Annual Conference – courageous, undeterred, and firmly believing that our brightest days lie ahead, guided by the unwavering presence of God.
We are the Texas Annual Conference! We are resilient and resolute. We are courageous and undeterred. We believe that the future is bright, and our best days are ahead. We believe like never before that best of all God is with us.
In our first chapel service of the year, Rev. Deborah Hawboldt adapted a Blessing for Birthdays from Douglas Kaine McKelvey’s book Every Moment Holy. She adapted it into a prayer for us as we begin the new year and I share it with you today.
How marvelous it is, O Lord,
that you contemplated each of us
before we were made!
How marvelous that you considered and created us,Z
decreeing the very time and place that each of us should enter
the world, to live out our part of your grand story.
We gather to celebrate, and to give thanks that our
life and days are woven together, that we might share
the joys and burdens of life together, delighting in the ways
your glory is reflected in the unrepeatable gift of our being.
You have created each of us, O Lord, to bear your image
in unique expression, reflecting a facet of your glory
in a way that no other person in all of history will,
so that by knowing one another we might also know you better.
Bless our lives in the year to come. May we know
the comfort of your presence, the certainty of your purpose,
and the consolation of your love at work in our lives.
Grant us wisdom, maturity, vision, and passion
in increasing measure, that we might be instruments
well-honed for the building of your kingdom.
Bless us with loving family and enduring friendships,
that we might make our journey ever surrounded by
the steadying companionship of fellow pilgrims.
May we invest our moments well in the coming year
and in all years to follow, living life always with the end in view,
in pursuit of that eternal prize that will allow us to look
ever with gladness and never with regret upon the passing of
our years, as each subsequent year will be but the marking of a step
nearer to the final fulfillment of
all we have so long hoped and labored for.
Grace & Peace
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey