Saturday, December 12, 2015

St. Stephen Gives Visible Witness

During Advent, members of St. Stephen have been active in showing their "visible witness" to God's unconditional love in two events.

Bells for Bethlehem

In the video above, taken by Rev. Karen Williams, Celebration Ringers Dick Benson, Michael Carr, Tom Ellis, Nina Thompson and Jeanette Benson ring bells outside the church on Dec. 5 in support of Christians in Bethlehem. St. Stephen joined dozens of churches around the world in ringing bells at the same moment that bells rang in Bethlehem. The bell ringing was a demonstration against the Palestinian Authority's restrictions on Christmas celebrations this year because of heightened political tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

United Against Racism & Hate

In a similar witness, John Astle displays the sign that he and Cynthia Astle carried on Saturday, Dec. 12 in the Peace and Unity March and Rally sponsored by a new coalition, United Against Racism & Hate. An estimated 300 people walked from Fair Park to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in a peaceful demonstration supporting Muslims, Syrian refugees and others who have been maligned recently in national political rhetoric.

The North Texas Conference was one of the co-sponsors of the event, and United Methodists were well represented.  Representing St. Stephen, Cynthia and John met members from Northaven UMC, another co-sponsor, along with First-Dallas, First-Garland, Oak Lawn, and Grace-Dallas.

Read John's account of the event on Facebook here.

Our participation in these two broader events shows how St. Stephen United Methodist Church is "actively waiting" for Jesus by doing all we can to show God's unconditional love to the world. Through these events and others like them in the future, we are fulfilling our vision to "show God's unconditional love to the world through believing, proclaiming and serving."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Information on Refugees

The North Texas Conference hosted a Dec. 8 information meeting on refugees featuring Refugee Services of Texas. Some 100 people -- about 5 times the expected attendance -- filled the main meeting room. Rev. Nancy DeStefano, Lay Leader Keith Fulenwider and communications chair Cynthia Astle represented St. Stephen UMC. Participants asked really good, relevant questions, and many were eager to give political pushback in Texas to the anti-refugee movement.

There were many details about the reality of today's refugee crisis worldwide, but here are some brief facts:

1) A refugee is defined as a person who must leave his or her country because of immediate persecution or threat of harm. By U.S. law, immigrants and refugees have two completely different statuses, and they go through different processes.

2) There are some 60 million refugees worldwide at this moment. That's 1 displaced person for every 122 humans.

3) Of that 60 million, the United States expects to take in around 70,000 refugees this year.

4) Of those 70,000 refugees coming to the United States, most have endured a TWO-YEAR-long vetting process.

5) Of those 70,000 refugees coming this year, only around 2,000 of them are Syrians, all of whom are coming from U.N. refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Our Christmas Eve offering will be used to aid refugees. More detailed information on the Outreach opportunities with Dallas-area refugees will be shared after the holidays.

One last thing to remember as we approach Christmas: Joseph, Mary and Jesus were refugees, too.

Picture Advent!

We're still collecting images for our Picture Advent devotions. In case you missed it, here's the list of topics and scripture readings. Email your digital photos to this blog site. (Click on the picture to enlarge).

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

More Picture Advent Photos!

Heather Ducar's picture of Hope.

Rev. Nancy DeStefano's picture of Guidance.

Rev. Nancy DeStefano's picture of Wonder.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015