2015 Countdown to Conference

Date Posted: 4/9/2015

Conference registration closes in one month, so don’t miss out on attending May 24-27 in Houston for inspiration and insight on Transforming Clergy and Lay Leaders, happy reunions, and critical voting that will guide our future. Read more about childcare, youth events and logistics.
Anxiety can fuel boldness, according to leadership consultant Gil Rendle, session leader for this year’s Annual Conference at the Hilton of the Americas in downtown Houston. He will challenge several thousand TAC leaders this May to think differently about leadership as it relates to agility, experimentation, defining purpose and living into a bolder story. Gil, senior consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation in Austin, previously served as a senior consultant with the Alban Institute, and as senior pastor of two urban congregations in Pennsylvania in addition to writing several books and working with leaders to see the possibilities in the midst of a fast-changing culture. He sees great potential during this “developmental mode” of transition from making members to making disciples.
Bishop Huie encourages attendees to hear Gil’s thoughts on how to facilitate changed people who then change the world. She adds, “Gil has been a consultant and confidante to me and the Cabinet for many years. He has been instrumental in the development of our vision and mission for the Texas Annual Conference.  He is one of the leading experts on trends in the United Methodist Church. In 2007, he was the keynote speaker at the gathering of all the United Methodist cabinets across the nation and he was invited to return in 2016 to share his expertise again with that group. I am sure our delegates will appreciate the depth of knowledge he brings to us about the past and future of our beloved church.”
2015 Conference Mission Focus
Attendees and congregations will be blessed by joining together to “Restore Lives with the Word of Life” by helping to fund the purchase of bibles for children of inmates and for Disciple Bible Study packets for inmates. Rev. Diane McGehee, Director of the Center for Missional Excellence shares, “When Jesus announced the beginning of his earthly ministry, he stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth and read the following from the scroll of Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor … freedom for the prisoners …to set the oppressed free…’, Texas incarcerates more people than any state in the United States. 

When you include families and criminal justice system employees, the Texas prison system impacts more than 1 million people.  When a person is incarcerated, the entire family is impacted, often causing the remaining family members to spiral into poverty, become homeless, and face significant challenges, including losing the income of the chief bread winner.  Many children are faced with the pain and shame of visiting their parent in a prison visitation room.  What if they were given Bibles to read together with their family members? Many inmates need to hear God’s word of forgiveness and hope. What if they all had access to the Word of Life?  With this year’s Annual Conference Mission Project, we, the churches of the Texas Annual Conference, have a chance to make those “what if’s” a reality for more inmates and families.  We can make a difference by restoring life with the Word of Life!

“The Center for Missional Excellence is asking every church in the Texas Annual Conference to take up an offering toward the cost of one or more children’s Bibles and Disciple Bible Study Packets,” shares center director Rev. Diane McGehee. “A donation of $50 covers the cost of one set with Bible and packet. How many sets can your church help to buy?” Adds Diane, “We hope you will bring your donation to the 4th floor Mission Project table at annual conference or you can mail it in advance to the conference office.” Donations should be made out to “TEXAS ANNUAL CONFERENCE”, memo: “Restorative Justice Mission Project.”  Or send by mail to Shirley Broome at 5215 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002. 
Conference Registration Logistics 
Hotel Reservations: Call 713-739-8000 to secure the conference room rate of $125 per night which also applies to two days before and after the conference. Parking:  Hotel guests can use the valet to park and get a $10/day discount or park in the self-park directly behind the hotel without a discount.  In addition to the Toyota Center Tundra Parking Garage covered parking, there are several lower priced lots directly around the hotel that often fill up fast. 

Pre-Registration: Clergy, clergy spouses and laity delegates wishing to avoid waiting in line at the registration tables at Conference need to pre-register online before May 10th via the link sent from district office staff. Guests and laity who are not delegates do not need to register. 
Onsite Registration: Registration opens Sunday, May 24th from 2-6 pm on the fourth floor. Find your district flag and pick up a name badge, memory card for the voting device, a zippered lanyard-holder to hold both of these items and a TAC 2015 Official Agenda.
Schedule of Events
Since events have been moved around to accommodate this year’s voting and multiple resolution presentations, review the agenda carefully to note what may have changed from the Pre-Conference Journal. 
Special Event Spotlight:
Hispanic Ministry Lunch Features Dr. Ruben Saenz, Jr.
Dr. Ruben Saenz, Jr.  Executive Director of New Church Development and Transformation for the Rio Texas Conference will speak Monday, May 25th at a lunch event from 11-1 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of First UMC – Downtown at 1320 Main Street. Dr. Saenz is the key point person for the Bishop and Cabinet of the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church in designing and implementing ministries to fulfill the Conference mission of offering Christ to all. Notes Diane, “Ruben brings years of experience in effectively helping congregations live out the Gospel in ways that welcome all to the table of God’s grace.  His depth of insight and passion for God’s work in the world not only inspires, but calls us all to a deeper commitment to that work.” Members of the Hispanic congregation at Cypress UMC will provide special music. (See Flyers - English -- Spanish
Additional “don't miss” events from Missional Excellence groups include the Restorative Justice breakfast Monday (7:30-9 a.m./$20) featuring Charles Rotramel, CEO of Houston ReVision, who will share strategies for “Helping Children Embrace an Alternative Future.” See flyer for more details. The breakfast Tuesday, sponsored by Church & Society and Religion and Race Committees will feature Anne Chandler, JD, director of Tahirih Justice Center speaking on “Protecting Immigrant Women and Girls from Violence.” This flyer provides registration information.
Conference Childcare
Conference kids will enjoy many opportunities to grow in lay leadership through TAC Conference Childcare 2015. According to coordinator Jenna Arnold, kids 6-12 will lead a mission project for the homeless and working poor at the Emergency Aid Coalition Houston, as well as enjoy a field trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  Younger children will experience lay leadership in a whole new way when Jennifer Howard, aka “Plum Cute” of Cokesbury UMC, shares the love of Jesus through her clown ministry. The Nature Discovery Center will be back with their animal surprises so the kids can cuddle, love, and learn about God’s furriest creatures. An encore to last year’s success, children of all ages will lead one another in re-enacting their favorite Bible stories for the audience of childcare workers. Notes Jenna, “It’s sure to be a fun filled week of sharing God’s love with the always-inspiring TAC kids!”  Register today at https://www.kiddiecorp.com/tackids.htm.
Register Youth for “Collide”
The Collide event is a gathering of youth from across the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. For 32 hours, youth will gather together in downtown Houston for a time of common meals, worship, and large group workshops centered around the “why?” of worship. Notes Rev. Thera Freeman, Director of Youth and Young Adults for TAC, “This is a time of deepening our understanding of how and why we come together in common space to sing and pray and reflect together as one body.” The 2015 theme is COLLIDE: LEAD, focusing on Christ-focused leadership, asking the question “What does it mean to lead like Jesus?” and “How can I lead?” Adds Thera, “We are very excited to have Scott Erickson join us as our speaker and instigator of conversation for this year’s event. Participants will learn from and hear testimony from a panel of leaders in the Texas Annual Conference with an elder, deacon, conference lay leader, local pastor and youth worker all sharing their stories and in conversation to narrate our Methodist polity in new and refreshing ways.” (Learn more about Scott and his work and style at www.scottericksonart.com).
For the break-out sessions, youth can choose between workshop-tracks exploring their own gifts and talents, different leadership styles, sharpening their discernment of their specific ways of leading, and several creative reflections on leadership and the church. Workshop leaders will be posted, upon their confirmation, on the website (www.youthcollide.org). Students will sign up for their workshop choice on Saturday evening and attend them on Sunday. “These 32 hours are just before the gathering of clergy and lay members of the conference for the beginning of annual conference,” explains Thera. “In fact, the Collide event closes with the opening worship of annual conference and Bishop Huie’s Episcopal Address.”
Adds Thera, “Collide is an annual conference of sorts for young people, a time of colliding of the youth of the Church with the delegates—for young people to be fed, renewed, challenged and form friendships as well as a time to come together as the Church. One of the ways our gathering physically collides with the Annual Conference gathering is in the Opening Worship—the planning committee for worship will be working with us again for our student’s involvement in what promises to be a fun and Christ-centered opening worship for the Annual Conference and a closing worship for COLLIDE.”
Students will enjoy teaching moments about what Annual Conference is, as well as, student time to worship, play and serve. Thera encourages all participants to receive housing assignments at local churches.  (Info: http://www.youthcollide.com)
For additional information about this year's event, lodging and relevant forms, please go to http://www.txcumc.org/tac2015. The deadline for pre-registration will be May 10th at noon, after which time registration must be done in person at conference. Questions? Contact event registrar: jervin@txcumc.org