May 14, 2010

What is a Methodist Annual Conference?

The second week of June our pastors and lay leaders will attend the 2010 edition of Annual Conference in Fort Worth. As several bothers and sisters ask me each year what Annual Conference is, then let me provide something of an answer. An Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is a regional body that governs much of the life of the broader or “Connectional Church.”

There are many Annual Conferences in world Methodism and they are composed primarily of the clergy members and lay member(s) from each ecclesial charge. On occasion people ask “what is a charge?” The answer is that a charge is one or more churches yoked together and served by a minister under Bishop Lowry’s appointment (in our Central Texas AC case). Generally every annual conference is a geographical division. In Texas we have five annual conferences with the Rio Grande Annual Conference superimposed over several others.

Next week in the blast/blog we will further explore the unique church structure that Mr. Wesley gave us Methodists, but this year one exciting things that will happen is with regard to missions—and we are a “One Mile Mission” Church—concerns wiping out Malaria as a dreaded world disease.

The Central Texas Conference’s Mission Leadership Team selected at their annual meeting March 6 “Imagine No Malaria” for the 2010 Annual Conference offering. Our launch date of April 25 coincides with World Malaria Day with a special emphasis at the 2010 Annual Conference June 6-9 in Fort Worth and a continuation throughout the year and beyond.

Pray for all our delegates as we represent a great church—FUMC, Arlington, Texas.

May 8, 2010

Parking Woes for the Able Bodied

In the last eight months FUMC, Arlington, TX has set aside two entire Sunday morning worship times to Special Needs Christians—which is all of us in many ways. I remember September 2009 when Tim Caldwell, as our special speaker, told the congregation that the first Sunday he visited us I asked him (as he rolled in his wheelchair through the sanctuary door) “Is it raining?” Because he was absolutely soaking wet as the nearest place to park was about one hundred yards from the sanctuary, Tim got a big kick out of my obviously tongue-in-cheek idiotic question.

It was obviously raining, but I asked Tim about the rain so he would not ask me why our able-bodied church members had parked vehicles in so many of the handicapped parking spaces. I would have told him “it must be visitors,” but one of our best members even confessed to me that he parked “illegally” because he did not want to get wet. I guess I just did not want to face up to the fact that sometimes people with handicapping conditions simply are an inconvenience for a few of our most important citizens—which brings me to Tweed Clark. I am sure Ms. Clark is a very nice person. But she wishes that those pesky people with handicapping conditions would not be such a nuisance to her. There is a reason I want you to see Ms. Clark at her affronted best.

Our talented church member/reporter Susan Schrock wrote a story about Tweed Clark several weeks ago in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And from what I can tell the outcry was so great against Ms. Tweed that Susan (who was merely the messenger) has been in hiding ever since. Here are the opening lines of the article and it fixes our context:

Tweed Clark stopped briefly at the Arlington Municipal Court to pay her daughter's $250 speeding ticket. So, how did Clark end up with a $640 parking violation of her own?
Clark admits that she parked in a yellow-striped space next to a handicap space for a few minutes March 8 but said she never saw a "no parking" sign until after an officer pointed it out to her while writing the ticket.
In Arlington, the fine for blocking access to a handicap parking space — the violation for which Clark was cited — is the same as for illegally parking in a handicap space.
Clark, who is fighting the citation, said she has written and called Mayor Robert Cluck and other city leaders asking them to consider reducing the fine. She also wrote a jeer in the Star-Telegram calling the city "crazy" for how much it charges.
"It's outrageous," Clark said. "I wasn't driving drunk. I wasn't speeding in a school zone"
Clark, who has hired an attorney, said she wants to raise awareness about her costly mistake.
"I felt like the whole city of Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth should hear about it," Clark said of writing to the Star-Telegram. "I have told everybody in the city. I've got such a big mouth” (

We celebrate Special Needs Sunday at FUMC, Arlington on occasion to remind our able bodied church folks that sometimes believers and worshippers with handicapping conditions want to participate in the life of their church. Yet they have difficulty walking a long way. Some are older, some are in wheelchairs, and some are on walkers or canes.

I will freely admit there is no Bible verse about where to park, or about parking at all. Yet as people of faith, whether we are teenagers or adults who can still walk a ways, should we not be sensitive to those who struggle to come to church? I applaud them and ask that we not make it any harder for them than it already is.

As Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

May 1, 2010

Mother’s Day

This week I simply want to share a couple of delightful things I have heard or read the last decade or so. Perhaps there is nothing profound here, but with mothers and fathers it is all profound at one level or another. I hope this lifts your day.


Do you remember Bill Cosby’s comments about the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Mothers are organized. They give their children a list of what they want, and then say, “Now go get the money from your father and you surprise me on Mother’s Day. You do that for me.”

As Cosby told it, “On Father’s Day I give each of my five children $20 to go out and buy me a present. They buy two packages of under shorts for $5 each—and each package has three shorts. They unwrap the packages, wrap each pair of shorts separately.” Cosby concludes, “On Father’s Day, I am walking around in new underwear and my kids are walking around with $90 in change in their pockets.”

Another story about the Festival of the Christian Home:

My sister had been ill, so I called to see how she was doing. My ten-year-old niece answered the phone.
“Hello,” she whispered.
“Hi, Honey. How’s your mother doing?” I asked.
“She’s sleeping,” she answered, again in a whisper.
“Did she go to the doctor?” I asked.
“Yes. She got some medicine,” my niece said softly.
“Well, don’t wake her. Just tell her I called. What are you doing, by the way?”
Again in a soft whisper, she answered, “Practicing my trumpet.”

May God grant us a blessed time with our family this May.

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