Jun 22, 2010

Book People II

We made known last week about our enthusiasm concerning our group of FUMC, Arlington library patrons that we call the “Book People” (Adult Library Committee: Verna Brown, Mitzi Busick, Ann Watley, and Rita Martin). Using great enterprise and common sense, they launched a “Go the Second Mile” mission project that was a venture of just the sort I hoped would come about when our church first launched the “One Mile Mission” last year. They called their project: The Book Carnival.

As I wrote last week in the e-mail blast and on my blog, it all started when these four book lovers accepted the “Going the Second Mile” challenge. In the January the group decided to put books into the hands of our neighborhood children. Having books available for summer reading would enhance literacy and delight many children.

Then the idea really exploded. Rev. Kay Lancaster further proposed that we invite our faith community to contribute new or gently used children’s books. Several young children designed posters asking for wider assistance. The artists could see their posters placed around the church. Four book baskets were ready to receive contributions. Church leadership offered a date: 29 May 2010 at the Center Street Activities Building. Yet, not a lot happened in terms of help. We told each other not to be discouraged. People were busy with Easter.

Meanwhile, local churches, the Arlington Friends of the Library, and Half Price Books held special sales. We were their best customers. “The Book People and Associates” circumnavigated the two mile radius around the church’s altar and found many needy places for books and the people to read them. We decided that free books might not be the best or only enticement for the neighborhood to come to FUMC, Arlington. We added free food—we could surely use some of the monies for snacks. And, then, thanks to Mitzi’s idea we added Supper Kits for families who attended the Book Carnival.

How to get the word out to the community? We designed lawn signs and flyers. We posted updates were posted around the church regarding The Book Carnival. Books were stacked in the baskets. People were getting excited!!!

“The Book People and Associates” wrote letters to area elementary schools, Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Night Shelter, and called the Women’s Shelter telling them about this event—The Book Carnival. We sorted books. Young children drew pictures for book plates that announced the book as a gift from First United Methodist Church of Arlington, Texas.

In early May, during a “One Mile Mission” Minute (or two!) “The Book People and Associates” shared a progress report with the faith community. We had just over 1000 books. We had snacks. We had books still coming in. We had people asking to volunteer. We had financial contributions from Sunday School Classes and individuals. Volunteers helped classify books by age-reading ability. Amazing Grace and teen groups placed book plates in books. Volunteers distributed flyers, placed lawn signs, walked the streets and talked with folks about the event. We were now ready for the big day . . . but more about that next week!

Jun 16, 2010

Book People

Ray Bradbury wrote a book titled Fahrenheit 451, presumably because it is at that temperature that paper burns and Bradbury’s book is about books and burning. It is a futuristic story and I stumbled upon it because the name of my favorite bookstore in Austin is “Book People.” Bradbury’s book describes a colony of itinerant book lovers in his fictional account of near-the-end-of-the-world proportions. In the book a self-indulgent and anti-intellectual America has entirely forsaken self-control. Thus the book people are the last vestige of both decency and sanity—measures of civilization. A recent film starring Denzel Washington called “The Book of Eli” reminded me of Fahrenheit 451 in certain respects.

All of this is to say that this summer our own merry band of “Book People” (Adult Library Committee: Verna Brown, Mitzi Busick, Ann Watley, and Rita Martin) launched a “Go the Second Mile” mission project that was a venture of just the sort I hoped would come about when we first launched the “One Mile Mission” last year. They called their project: The Book Carnival.

It all started when these four women [named above]accepted the “Going the Second Mile” challenge. In the January Adult Library Committee summit, the group decided it would be a good idea to put books into the hands of neighborhood children. Having books available for summer reading would enhance literacy and also delight many children who rarely receive gifts of things as exotic as books. John Wesley taught the coal miners’ children at Kingswood, England to read using the Bible as a text—thus the FUMC book people simply recycled a two century old Wesleyan strategy.

As the "Library People" put their plan together several questions emerged: How many books? Where to find the funds? Is this too big a challenge? Is this an impossible task? Yet, as the committee moved nearer a line of attack, these questions did not seem to matter. The Book Carnival idea was born. Once the design was proposed problem solving took over. Alphonso Rincón said, “The definition of the impossible is that for which there is not idea or thought” (Rincón founded Fathers Active in Communities and Education in 2003—a mission to transform education). Well, the thoughts were in the committee’s mind and that was all that mattered!

They began with $1000 and thought: “What a lot of money” and “How many books will that money purchase?” The “FUMC Book People” figured with help from our resident librarian that the cost would be about $5.00 a book and they could purchase 200 books for the neighborhood. They divided the money—each member of the committee could spend $200 dollars with $200 left over for incidentals.

Over the next weeks I will share in two other installments what happened, but mostly I share this story to illustrate that if a committee of four persons can pull off a mission project like this, then what more can our church creatively do to interface with our community. It was a beautiful thing! Not only that but our Adult Library Committee was like the book people because Fahrenheit 451 ends with the Book People moving off toward the city to search for survivors and to help rebuild civilization—or in this case help build the Kingdom of God in a downtown Arlington neighborhood.

Jun 5, 2010

Imagine No Malaria

Last week at the Central Texas Annual Conference held at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Coliseum we voted to support the world wide mission program we titled “Imagine No Malaria.” As an annual conference we learned that every thirty seconds a child dies from malaria. As sad as that is, it is even more tragic that malaria is a disease that is preventable and treatable. America eradicated this pernicious disease in the 1950s. Yet today nearly 90% of deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our Central Texas Annual Conference raised $135,276 with the Nothing But Nets Annual Conference offering in 2007, resulting in 13,527 bed nets now providing protective coverage for families in Africa! In fact our own church, FUMC, Arlington raised over $27,000 of that by ourselves—first in the Annual Conference. I was so proud of our church I was beside myself.

“Imagine No Malaria” is now the next step in our goal of ending suffering and death from this avertable disease. “Imagine No Malaria” continues to include nets for beds, but expands into other areas of deterrence, action, education, and the conveyance of life-extending information.

Central Texas’ goal for the 2010 Annual Conference offering is about $164,000. You may make any contribution you like through our local church. During the 2010 Annual Conference (June 6-9 in Fort Worth) we will report our conference’s total gift. The “Imagine No Malaria” offering will continue until we reach our Conference goal of $1 per member. We anticipate a celebration of this accomplishment by June 2011!

Imagine No Malaria is something that would be noble for all of us disciples of Jesus Christ to imagine. As we continue to move and grow in mission and ministry I hope that we will always remember that as a church of 5000 well educated and fairly well-heeled people, that we have an amazing array of resources for our immediate community and for our world. May God continue to help us use them (and steward them) wisely!

As one of my heroes, John Wooden, once said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

Jun 3, 2010

What is a Methodist Annual Conference: Part II?

In our last blog/blast I wrote about what an Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is. As a refresher, an Annual Conference is a regional body that governs much of the life of the broader or “Connectional Church.”

The Annual Conference is the chief unit of our denomination’s government. Regional groups of conferences within the United States make up the Jurisdictional Conferences, and outside the United States they make up the Central Conferences. The entire group of all annual conferences makes up the General Conference which meets every four years. Only the General Conference can speak officially for the church.

The 2010 Central Texas Annual Conference meets the week of June 6-9, in Fort Worth. The Annual Conference is composed of an equal number of clergy and laity. Each charge conference elects as many lay members to the Annual Conference as they have ministers appointed to that charge. In most cases that is one. The Lay Member must, at the time of election, be a Professing Member of the United Methodist Church for at least two years and four years an active participant in the church. The Central Conferences may waive this requirement for those fewer than 30 years old as the General Church waives the requirement for newly organized churches.

The Annual Conference also consists of a number of “at-large” members, also known as “additional lay members,” the number of at-large members being the number necessary (after the members elected by charge conferences are seated) so that the laity and the clergy are equal in number. First seated among at-large members are lay persons holding certain lay positions or offices designated by the Book of Discipline or by the Annual Conference itself. Among those officers are the lay leaders of the conference and each of the districts within the conference, as well as the Conference presidents of the United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, the young adult organization, the college student organization and the youth fellowship. Also all the diaconal ministers, home missioners, and the deaconesses under Episcopal appointment are lay members. When there are multiple congregations in a charge conference, the General church encourages members from each congregation to become at-large members.

I write of these matters because it is through this means that our church makes its decisions for our church. Some churches have a select group of laypeople or in some cases clergy who make virtually every decision for the church. Methodist Churches could not be any more democratic in decision making. For this reason alone our church, when it debates things, seems as wide open as it could be. This is the way we are.

Pray for our delegates and clergy as we enter the exciting process that we call the Annual Conference.

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