I have always been told about how big things in Texas are and once again I have experienced it. The TEF Seminary Support Network received an overflowing welcome to Texas by members and staff of Grace Presbytery. There were so, so many wonderful experiences and connections that happened around the edges of our annual gathering of the TEF Seminary Support Network last week. One of the most memorable was the love, prayer and presence extended to us by leaders in Grace Presbytery, 180 congregations and over 45,000 members in northeast Texas.
Pictured above is the font/fountain that greets visitors to the Grace Presbytery, at the Presbyterian Mission Center where one will find the offices of the Synod of the Sun, the Texas Presbyterian Foundation, and FaithHospice. Around the base of the font is the commissioning words that emerge from baptism, "Sent by God into the world." What a message of hope that reminds all who enter there of the call by God to be in ministry in the world.
I was invited by Ashley Hood (pictured on the left with me and sporting her "Seminaries and Churches Together shirt!), Acting Associate General Presbyter of Grace Presbytery and the chair of their Committee on Preparation for Ministry, Betsy Winters, to meet with the COPM while I was in town. They shared dinner with our Network and I shared lunch with them. I felt like it was an extension of the communion table as we gathered both places. Grace has over seventy inquirers and candidates, one of the most of any PC(USA) presbytery.... and they are looking for more! Grace's Eli Project seeks to identify high school and college age students who are discerning potential calls to church vocations. They match them with mentors and provide events for all involved. I could see there how a culture of call is being nurtured and created in wonderful ways.
That same Spirit was recognizably present during a Prayer Breakfast organized by Lander Bethel, Pastor of Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church in Sherman, TX. Over a dozen pastors gathered with Judy Fletcher, the Synod of the Sun Executive, Linda Valentine, the Executive Director of the GAC, Carol Adcock, the Chair-elect of the GAC, and TEF Seminary Support Network synod representatives. Prayers of thanksgiving and praise, especially for the numerous churches that have given to the TEF almost every year since it began, nineteen years ago. Eastminster Presbyterian Church of Dallas was honored for giving every single year of the fund!
Days like these remind me about the new life that we are all given in baptism. They remind me that we are not alone in answering our call by God in our new life. I give thanks that we are a connectional and connected church that is doing faithful and fruitful ministry in every corner of the globe and the NE corner of Texas!
Lee back home in Louisville