As I have alluded in previous newsletters, the beginning of October holds a lot of excitement for me, because it will hold the beginning of a new ministry network that I have created with the help of our General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and General Board of Discipleship. October 3-5, we are hosting 14 pastors from around the country who are appointed to churches on or adjacent to
or college campuses. Some are among the strongest churches in the nation. Some are small and struggling. All of them are located in the contexts like ours, and I believe we all have something to learn from one another. In the process of planning this and making invitations to more than 150 similar churches, we have built a network of more than 40 other churches that aren’t able to attend our inaugural gathering, but are eager to participate in online discussions and even host future gatherings. We’ll also be joined by three denominational staff people (two women from the General Board of Discipleship who facilitated the birth of the “Downtown Church Network,” that my father belonged to while serving FUMC Little Rock—which basically inspired my idea for a “University Church Network,” and the director of Collegiate Ministries with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, who will speak to the Wesley students on Friday, Oct. 5 about the global character of Wesley foundations, and his own witness seeing those thriving ministries this past month in Eastern Europe. I’m also excited to be able invite Susan Neal to discuss the dynamics of building mutually beneficial relationships with University administrations with the group, and our neighbor Rev. Charlie Spears will come over and join me in a panel discussion on the complex characteristics that sometimes accompany the relationship between Wesley foundations and University Churches (there’s also a husband and wife who serve as the ministers of First UMC and the Wesley Foundation in Laramie, WY, home of University of Wyoming, who will participate in that panel.) Even Bishop Hayes plans to drop in and welcome our guests to the Oklahoma Conference. I hope you’ll be praying for the fruitful discussions taking place and relationships born through this event. The minister at Wesley Memorial UMC across the street from the University of Virginia was one of the first participants to sign up, and in our phone conversations back and forth, we both marveled at the potential for new friendships to emerge from this event. Google the following churches to see what kind of partners in ministry we now have through this upcoming event—participants include, First UMC, Laramie (UWY), United University Church, Los Angeles, (USC), University Park UMC, Denver (UofDenver), Wesley UMC, OKC (OKCU), UUMC Wichita (Wichita State Univ), University Heights UMC Indianapolis (UofIndy), Wesley UMC, Charlottesville (UVA), College Park UMC, (UMaryland), Reilly Memorial University UMC, Baton Rouge, (LSU), Cookville FUMC, (Tennessee Tech), Highland Park UMC, Dallas, (SMU). Many others, from United Methodist Churches in contexts as varied as Texas Tech and Oxford University have been in conversation with me and plan to be involved in future gatherings! I’m excited about what wisdom this event may hold for our own church here in Tulsa, and am gratified that the germ of an idea has become a reality—it wouldn’t have happened without all the help I’ve received in planning it!