Friday, July 22, 2016

Help Spread the Word about St. Stephen!

St. Stephen UMC's development plan, "Three Ways to Grow," emphasizes raising our visibility and creating new partnerships in the community through communications. We've been developing a consistent look for all our communications outlets, along with a set of editorial guidelines. We're far enough along in our planning that we're ready to expand the volunteer team that will help make St. Stephen better known as the faith community that lives out God's unconditional love for all.

We're looking at all our social media as "channels" and we need at least three people who like to do creative work. We're calling the folks who take on these tasks "coordinators" because they'll be interacting with one another, with St. Stephen Church members and with the greater Dallas-area community. This sounds like a lot when we read it, but in reality it usually takes only a few minutes.

Fluid App Coordinator. Yes, we're finally getting this "smartphone" app up and running. The Fluid App Coordinator would be responsible for sending out notices of St. Stephen activity on a regular basis. This is more for "internal" communication, but also can reach folks in the wider community.

Twitter Coordinator. This volunteer should have a working knowledge of Twitter, including the use of hashtags to make sure that St. Stephen gets its message of God's unconditional love for all into the Twitterverse.

Facebook Coordinators. John Astle, a new "semi-retiree," has taken on the task of keeping our Facebook page updated, but this is a major channel for us and could use more than one volunteer. We want to post on Facebook every day, and we want to include more faith-based material in addition to the social justice activities we've been posting. Having more than one person on this task, using guidelines that are written into the Communications plan, will benefit St. Stephen enormously.

Communications Chair Cynthia Astle will continue as webmistress for St. Stephen's website, which will be the center of our communications plan. We want to direct people to our website from all our "channels," because the website will be the key source for detailed information about St. Stephen.

To volunteer as a coordinator, contact Cynthia Astle. As soon as we have enough volunteers, we'll schedule half a day of instruction with Cynthia, who has been managing all our channels to date, to train volunteers on how to create and post content on the various outlets.

Please help us spread the word about the great faith community of St. Stephen!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summertime Suppers Are Coming!

We have two great opportunities to socialize with old and new friends this month.

First, our monthly Supper Club meets at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, July 23 at Spring Creek BBQ in Mesquite. RSVP to Lehman and Wanda Bennett right away!

Next, St. Stephen will host a Fellowship Pot Luck of the North Texas Conference Reconciling Churches at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 30. Bring a dish to share and enjoy conversation with members of your fellow Reconciling Congregations. Our Pastors are preparing discussion points that will include the happenings at General, Annual and Jurisdictional Conferences.

Mobilizing to Overcome Racism

On Sunday, July 10, after the July 7 shooting of 12 Dallas police officers and two civilians, Church Council co-chair Tina Simpson read a Dallas News article saying that local clergy planned to organize to overcome racism. With Rev. Nancy DeStefano, Lay Leader Keith Fulenwider and Church Council co-chair Teddi Fulenwider on vacation, Tina asked Communications Chair Cynthia Astle to find out more about the meeting.

A call to the office of Dr. Joe Clifford, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas where the meeting was to be held, determined that the meeting was open to all Dallas-area religious leaders. So Cynthia and John Astle attended to represent St. Stephen UMC and find out more about the group and its plans.

When we arrived, we discovered that our good friend and former St. Stephen member, the Rev. Freddie Orr of Owenwood UMC, also was attending. We sat together at a table and spent an instructive and enlightening two hours listening to many people, both clergy and laity, talk about their hopes, dreams, fears and suggestions for how to combat racism in the greater Dallas area. To avoid overwhelming everyone with details, here's the gist of the meeting:

About 110 clergy and laypeople agreed that they wanted to begin the process working together toward reducing and eliminating racism. An ad hoc steering committee provided a propose covenant with the following actions:
  1. We commit to connect regularly to cultivate relationships for a year.
  2. We commit to lead our churches in having courageous conversations about race.
  3. We commit to practice racial sensitivity and work against racism in practical ways.
  4. We commit to equip our people to engage in the work of racial reconciliation.
  5. We commit to participate in the Dallas pulpit swap on March 26, 2017 or in March 2017.
  6. We commit to support law enforcement and the community by partnerships that serve the great good.

Each of these actions has detailed suggestions, and the full statement has been given to Pastor Nancy. As a first step, Nancy, Freddie and the Astles are scheduled to meet together on Thursday, July 21 to review the clergy covenant and look for ways that St. Stephen and Owenwood can begin to build relationships. In addition, Cynthia has collected resources from the United Methodist General Commission on Religion & Race for St. Stephen to consider a conversation on the topic of "white privilege" as a precursor to having "courageous conversations" about race.

How St. Stephen will respond to the crisis of racism in our community is still in the works, so be sure to keep up with the news via our website, Facebook page and Fluid App for smartphones.