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This story was originally published in the Summer 2009 edition of Methodist Money and Ministry; we are revisiting it ten years later, as we celebrate Black History Month and the hope United Methodist churches bring to their communities. “In the final analysis, our decision to invest had to be consistent with our cultural values and our core belief – our spirituality,” explained Dr. Robert McGee, senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Houston, in describing the criteria important to him and his wife Lillian when opening an Individual Fund at the Texas Methodist Foundation.
Investing in Purpose - An Interview with Bishop Joe A. Wilson Interviewer: Tell us about your call to ministry. Bishop Wilson: I heard the call to ministry when I was 17 years old, participating in a youth group (MYF) at First Methodist Church in Orange, Texas. That was before we were The United Methodist Church. The year was 1954, and I was greatly inspired by two wonderful youth counselors, Sandy and Virginia Sanford. I asked for baptism at a Sunday evening service, led by our pastor, Rev. Herman Morgan. After that moment, Rev. Morgan was relentless, inviting me to give the benediction or prayer in the morning services, always calling on me by surprise. As a 17 year old, every invitation caused fear and trembling, but it solidified my calling and set me on a path to Southwestern University and Perkins School of Theology for the fulfillment of that calling. I never doubted nor swayed from my commitment to ministry in the local church.
Sometimes innovative leaders just need a bit of affirmation that they are going in the right direction. For Pastor David Briggs, that is just what Launch 1.0 did. The Courageous Leadership Imperative’s Launch 1.0 was a cooperative event with the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) Foundations and Bishops that occurred in St. Louis last fall.
“I always had a strong feeling towards Jesus’ words in Matthew 25. My father was a doctor and his profession influenced my calling. When people are in need, if I can offer hope or encouragement in any small way, I see those acts of compassion as living into Matthew 25. Many, many hours of my ministry have been spent in hospitals and nursing homes with families who need that sense of compassion,” Rev. Mark Woodward shared. Mark is the newest member to TMF’s Area Representative team and he is serving the Texas Conference.
The church is located in an area with, well… High crime. High teen pregnancy rates. High drug use. Do you want to live here? Serve here? What if you were called to pastor here? Could you see it for what it truly was, a beautiful, culturally rich community whose vibrancy cannot be contained by negative statistics?
During Launch 1.0, Pastor Liliana Padilla did something quite unexpected. She stood in the very back of the church were participates were gathered and donned a cardboard box that looked like a stove from one side. As she walked to the front of the church, it seemed as if she was standing behind a stove and she conveyed to the room that Hispanic women feel tied to traditional expectations of femininity – cooking, rearing children, cleaning. No matter how they feel God is calling them to ministry the expectation that they will serve their families in the home can prevail over God’s call.
Interviewer: When you are meeting with churches as a TMF Area Representative, one question comes up pretty frequently. What is that question? John: When I go to a church, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from laity is this – How do I leave money to my church? On the flip side, staff are asking a similar question – How can we encourage people to leave money to the church?
In the old west, populations of desolate towns could explode as a result of discovering gold, silver, or even oil. Oftentimes, those thriving boomtowns would shrink when fortunes were not made, or the supply of sought-after minerals declined. While these stories harken images of the Gold Rush, boomtowns still exist all around us. For instance, in the next ten to fifteen years, Troy, TX is projected to triple in size, moving from less than 2,000 people to over 6,000, and Troy UMC is gearing up for the boom.
Our call stories are as varied as our fingerprints. Some are called in very ordinary ways. Like Elijah, they feel God calling them out of sheer silence. Others, however, are moved into ministry dramatically. When Rev. Dr. Eddie Rivera was a 15-year-old boy growing up in Mexico, he was a fourth generation Methodist. Joining the “family business” of ministry was not a difficult decision, but it did not feel like a calling. It felt like following his dad’s legacy.