Hurricane Harvey

Dear friends,

Like many of you, I have been both riveted and horrified by the images and news created by Hurricane Harvey. And I’m sure you share my discomfort with feeling powerless in the face of such tragedy. It is difficult to see so much devastation and so many people that are personally affected. This truly is an event of “Biblical proportions”, and it will take an effort of Biblical proportions to clean up the mess and to rebuild and to help people regain their lives – an effort that will not be measured in days and weeks, but years. As waters recede, we will be among many that monitor ways that help is needed and communicate that to you.

Stonebridge UMC is a certified shelter facility. We have been in contact with the Red Cross and will be utilized if needed to house those escaping the disaster. The Red Cross has the mobile numbers of some staff members, including my own, so that we can be contacted quickly and easily. 

There are several ways you can help immediately:

  • The communion offering this Sunday is designated for hurricane relief through the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR).  If you are writing a check, please make it out to the church and note that it is for “UMCOR disaster relief.”
  • You can go directly to the UMCOR website for other information or to donate directly at http://www.umcor.org, 100% of which will go to relief efforts.
  • We have additional info on our website at http://www.mysumc.org/harvey.
  • While we are anxious to be the physical hands and feet of Christ, the greatest immediate need for relief efforts is monetary support. Watch for future opportunities to provide tangible, hands-on help as work teams are assembled and sent into the affected areas. 

And it remains difficult to wait. The most important thing we can do is pray: prayers for safety, for relief, wisdom, courage, strength, hope, and trust. And then some. 

Praying,
Pastor Jeff

They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love

Dear friends,

The very first song I learned in Sunday School – even before I could read – began … 
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world, …

It would only be another year or two that I would begin attending public school and would be in a classroom with other kids that were Hispanic, Native American, and African American. As I encountered them, the song I learned at church echoed in my mind and heart, and I knew that God loved all children, regardless of their ethnicity and/or nationality. In all my school days and adulthood, I have had friends and colleagues that are other ethnicities than me because of this belief. 

Throughout my years and now it pains me to see anyone claiming superiority over another based on ethnicity and especially to see expressions of hatred and violence toward others. As a Christian, I find it appalling and tragic and know that it in no way reflects joyful people who try to live and love like Jesus. 

The events last weekend in Charlottesville, VA are clearly tragic, and I believe all forms of racism are wrong. The notion that any group of people can make claims of superiority over another group based on a condition (ethnicity) that was not theirs or anyone else’s choice is absurd and does not reflect God’s intention of the reign of the Prince of Peace and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

My challenge to anyone reading this is to model that peace and grace that God intends (and that we have already received!) and to specifically address expressions of racism as you encounter them in daily life. Indeed, they will know we are Christians by our love …

Blessings,
Pastor Jeff

The Congregation I Desired to Serve and Lead

Greetings! Mary and I are moved in, and the unpacking is mostly done. We are enjoying these days of setting up our home and getting to know McKinney a bit better – what a great community! 

I am very eager to join the work God has already done in and through you at Stonebridge. As you may know, I was University Chaplain at McMurry University in Abilene after serving as pastor, District Superintendent, and Provost in Northwest Texas and New Mexico. In my mind, there were many reasons to stay at McMurry for many years. However … 

It is my long-held conviction that the primary arena of God’s work is the local church. And I was open to once again lead a church that truly desired to serve God and their community and had great potential. But my experience has been that many United Methodist churches do not fit that description, and I had no visions of returning to the local church. And then I received an unexpected phone call from Bishop Mike McKee. Bishop McKee described Stonebridge UMC to me, and I was hooked. It was as if he knew the unspoken and unwritten script in my head of the congregation that I desired to serve and lead.

Both you and I have rich stories that bring us to this place and time. God uses all of our experiences to help us become the people God intends so that we can, together, fulfill God’s purposes. It is “through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20 NLT)

I am very happy to be here and really believe this is “a God thing”. I look forward to meeting you on July 9!

Blessings,
Jeff