Monday, July 9, 2012

Destination: Texas




Recently I packed up my car and traveled almost a thousand miles to spend the summer working for a church in The Woodlands, Texas. Prepared to see boots, belt buckles, and good ‘ole country boys, I was quite surprised to be in an upscale version of what feels a lot like home. Don’t get me wrong, boots, buckles, and a lot of the expected “Texas trimmings” can be found all over the place, but at its core the church is still the church, and people are still people, no matter how they say “yes ma’am” or cook their barbecue. Yet it’s in these differences, some subtle, others more pronounced, that I am invited to consider more deeply the character of the church and my vocational calling.

People told me upon traveling westward that I was heading to God’s special country, or to the land that God’s own hands had made. While I hesitate to call Texas a modern Zion (they’ve obviously never seen SC beaches), I am eager to see God at work. The church I’m serving as an intern, The Woodlands UMC, has approximately nine thousand members and is the fourth largest UMC in the country. Not only is this a large church, its actively growing. The confirmation class a few months ago included over two hundred confirmands. They say that everything is bigger in Texas, but “big” isn’t the sole factor for increased worship attendance, lay committment to outreach and mission, and continued professions of faith. If God’s hands are at work in what I’ve seen of Texas, I believe I’ll be looking at the church.

My summer sojourn in The Lone Star State and at The Woodlands UMC is already in full swing. I’ve already attended several worship services, made connections with ministry groups, and even had a hazing threat from the music leader (bring it!). Yet in the midst of going from place to place, it’s important to stop and reflect. What imbues our work with meaning is not so much the act of doing, but the conviction and commitments that drive us. Without an understanding of who we are and who we serve, the work of ministry can become tired and tedious. My desire this summer is to see everything and to meet everyone. Yet this needs to be balanced with personal time to find meaning in the many expressions of ministry. My goal for this blog is to spend time in reflection with those of you I’ve just met this summer, as well as those of you I’ve known for a while. I invite you to share this journey with me.

Erik Grayson

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