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.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

'Pets Unleashed' Starts Friday!

Woof-woof, bow-wow and meow! "Pets Unleashed" Vacation Bible School starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 15 with a snack supper, following by the gathering at 6 p.m. VBS continues at 9 a.m. Saturday and concludes at noon.

Volunteers will gather around 10 a.m. Friday morning to decorate the sanctuary and education wing for this great event. If you can loan any pet-related items, including stuffed animals, please come Friday morning and join in the set-up fun!

"Your Goal Is to Come Home Safely"

St. Stephen friends, this is what life is like for our African-American brothers and sisters -- and often for Hispanic/Latino, Asian and Native American citizens as well. We've never had to make a video like this for our congregation. That's what it means to have "white privilege."

As we continue our Summer Discussions, in light of recent events in Dallas and elsewhere around the country, how can we be in ministry with our brother and sister Christians of all colors?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Wisdom Circle" for July 20 Cancelled

Because of the many vacation absences during July, the July 20 "Wisdom Circle" session has been cancelled. Instead, the church-wide discussion for Sunday, July 31 will begin at 9 a.m. to allow 90 minutes for sharing.

Once again, the focus of these discussions is "Where Do We Go from Here?" in light of the actions of the 2016 General Conference to uphold current anti-LGBTQI stances in the Book of Discipline, our collection of United Methodist doctrine and policy. We're exploring our perceptions on how can we minister to and with the LGBTQI community when our official church policy holds "homosexual behavior is incompatible with Christian teaching."


Summer Vesper Services will be at 7:00 p.m.

The Mesquite / Sunnyvale United Methodist Congregations will be joining together for evening worship during the summer months. Please plan to attend.
The services are the idea of the four UMC pastors of Mesquite a sign of our unity to come together to know one another better. The services will be a "revival" type
service with hymn singing and preaching. Each host church will serve refreshments following the service during a time of fellowship.

July 17 @ 7:00 p.m. at First UMC Mesquite
300 N. Galloway, Mesquite TX
Rev. Reid Fade from New Covenant will deliver the sermon

July 31 @ 7:00 p.m. at St. Stephen UMC
Rev. Edwin Zarate from St. Marks will deliver the sermon
2520 Oates Dr, Mesquite TX

August 14 @ 7:00 p.m. at St. Marks UMC
Rev. Nancy will deliver the sermon
3117 Motley Mesquite TX

Sunday, July 3, 2016

'Pets Unleashed' Vacation Bible School Is Coming

"Pets Unleashed" Vacation Bible School is a summer fun event for youngsters pre-K through 5th grade to play games, make crafts and learn how Jesus is always there "fur" them! This year the event will take place Friday evening through Saturday morning, with a brief program during 10:50 a.m. worship on Sunday, July 17.

Click here to download a registration form. Please fill out the form and bring with you on Friday night when "Pets Unleashed" begins.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Here’s The Powerful Reason People Are Wearing Safety Pins In The U.K.

Photo Courtesy of  Fuad Alakbarov on Twitter 

Here's a great idea for St. Stephen UMC's next social justice outreach: Let's all start wearing safety pins on our clothes so that any vulnerable person we meet knows we're a "safe" ally they can rely on to stand up for their safety and their civil rights. This practice has started in the United Kingdom since people voted to leave the European Union and immigrants have been subjected to verbal and physical abuse. Many people here in the United States face similar threatening situations.

If you like the idea, then show up for all our July events wearing your safety pin! And be sure to tell everyone why you're wearing it!