Saying Goodbye to a Friend…
For 21 years, God has used Dr. Linda Christians to make a significant impact on the people of St. Luke’s Church. She has loved us through deaths and illnesses, family troubles and community challenges. She celebrated with us baptisms and graduations and rites of passage. She taught classes and has been a shepherd to so many people as we grew in faith and love. She has nurtured and encouraged staff and called lay leaders into ministry. In short, she has been a pastor, effective and caring.
The closing scene of the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus is a heartwarming moment in which the band instructor comes to realize the impact he has made on the students whom he has mentored and taught. I know that so many of us are a part of Linda Christian’s Opus. Now, she will be sent to make an impact on others of God’s children. Nonetheless, the impact she has made in this place will be a legacy for decades to come.
I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
Many of you may already know that I received my call to ministry while on a Bible study tour in the Holy Land in 1997. But the reality is that God has been at work in me from the very beginning, gently molding and shaping me for the time he would call me into his service.
Growing up, I learned many things. From my family, I learned discipline and the importance of loving each other through good times and bad. From my church, I learned the importance of having a strong faith foundation and of loving others as Jesus did. From my friends, I learned the importance of relaxing and having fun while forming solid relationships. From school, I learned that with education you could not only dream but have resources to make those dreams come true. Looking back now, I can see God’s hands at work in the different facets of my life, all in preparation for me to be ready for his call.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity of serving at St. Luke’s for the past 21 years, and am honored that the past 13 years have been as Executive Pastor. So many precious memories have been made here! I cherish each friend I have made along the way and will always remember the times we have spent together. I have been privileged to walk alongside others on their faith journeys, all the while knowing that my own faith was being strengthened with each experience. I have been motivated and encouraged as I witnessed the spiritual growth of class members and co-leaders in the classes and Bible studies I have led. It has been a joy to combine my spiritual journey with others making inspirational pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Greece. On a personal note, my husband, Doug, and I have enjoyed watching our children, Zach and Emily, grow from tots into fascinating young adults at St. Luke’s. Without a doubt, I have been blessed in many ways!
One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 43:1-4 because in it the Lord assures us that he is with us no matter what we are going through. This has been a source of comfort and joy for me through the various stages of my life. And I am leaning on it now as I prepare to begin a new chapter as Senior Pastor at West University UMC. Know that I will continue to hold you close in my prayers, and I humbly ask for yours.
With a loving and grateful heart,
Dr. Linda Christians
Dear St. Luke’s family,
Many of you have seen the news reports about the called session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church to deal with issues around same-sex marriage and ordination. The conference, which concluded Tuesday evening, passed an amended version of the plan called “The Traditional Plan,” which continues the current United Methodist position that same-sex weddings cannot be officiated by our clergy or in our churches, and self-avowed practicing LGBT men and women may not be ordained. This was passed by a margin of 53% – 47%. The passage of this plan changes nothing substantively for individual local churches. It does add increased accountability for bishops and boards of ministry in enforcing this covenant, although many of the components to increase that accountability already have been ruled in violation of the United Methodist constitution, so may not be enforceable going forward.
I have heard from many of you how painful this was to hear. Folks in our church family have shared how they feel rejected by a church they love because of their sexual identity. Many of you have friends and family members who feel judged and are turning away from the church because of the message, and you are hurting along with them. Others of you agree with the Biblical interpretation on which this decision was based but feel compassion for those who are hurting. There’s been lots of pain and tears.
There are two things it is important to communicate here. These are the same things I have tried to emphasize over the last few weeks.
First, I want you to know that St. Luke’s is a church for all of God’s children. All of us are created in God’s image. All of us stand in need of God’s grace. All of us are called to be a part of God’s work in the world. St. Luke’s will love and serve everyone, and we will include everyone in the full life of this congregation. This means all people, regardless of their sexual identity, their politics or ideology, or any other of the classifications the world likes to put on people. If you are LGBT, we not only welcome you in any of our ministries, but we will love you and embrace you as a full and equal part of us, and work with you to grow God’s kingdom. While we are a covenant-keeping church – we are a part of a larger denomination and we will keep our covenant to refrain from same-sex weddings – we will continue to study together, worship together, and serve the world together. Moreover, we have Bible-believing, Jesus-following, loving people who are honestly seeking God’s will and who have reached different conclusions about the Biblical message on this specific issue. We have differing understandings even among our clergy, each with our own nuanced views. But at St. Luke’s, we strive to respect one another’s viewpoints and learn from one another, choosing to believe the best about the motivations that have led us to our positions. We live in a world that is quick to demonize those who disagree. In a culture which is deeply polarized, our witness to the world is that we can disagree about some things and still love one another and work together.
Second, we will continue to focus on our common vision, “a city transformed by the love of Jesus,” and our mission, “to equip families and individuals to live and love like Jesus.” I have used the image of St. Luke’s as the International Red Cross. In the midst of the world’s cultural battleground, our charge is to bring the healing and saving love of Jesus to everyone, and to invite them to follow him. While we do care about the larger United Methodist Church, our primary focus is on who St. Luke’s is called to be, and we are clear on that. We will continue to keep the main thing the main thing.
I know you will join me in prayers for the larger United Methodist Church, but most of all with prayers of both gratitude and intercession for our beloved church.
The Called Session of General Conference of the United Methodist Church
A special called session of the General Conference of the United Methodist denomination will be meeting in St. Louis from Saturday, February 23 – Tuesday, February 26. The purpose of the session is to make decisions regarding whether United Methodist churches or clergy are permitted to hold or officiate at same-sex weddings, and whether Annual Conferences can ordain self-avowed, practicing homosexual men and women. Ordinarily, the General Conference of the church meets every four years, with lay and clergy delegates from Annual Conferences around the world. In the regular session of the General Conference in 2016, a special commission (The Commission on the Way Forward) was appointed by the Council of Bishops to bring recommendations to this coming called session. The Texas Annual Conference elected nine lay and nine clergy delegates to the General Conference at our annual session in 2015. None of them are members or clergy of St. Luke’s.
At this General Conference, three plans will be presented, and one or none of them may be adopted, or there may be some amended plan adopted. If none are adopted, then the position of the United Methodist Church will remain as it is now – United Methodist churches or clergy cannot hold or officiate at same-sex weddings, and self-avowed, practicing homosexual men or women may not be ordained. However, enforcement of these policies has been left to different jurisdictions and different annual conferences, and this has created concern about accountability and covenant. If you would like more information on these plans, or if you would like to follow what is happening at the session of General Conference, you can find that information at https://www.txcumc.org/GC2019. The sessions will be livestreamed through www.UMC.org.
As Senior Pastor at St. Luke’s, I want to emphasize three things:
- We don’t know what will happen, but whatever happens, we will work through it in a healthy way. Some have asked me why I haven’t been preparing the congregation for something ahead. I really don’t know what to prepare us for, and it may well be that there is no change. My intention has been to keep anxiety low, because I know we can deal with whatever comes with grace and love. When the General Conference is over, we will get up the next morning and do the same things we have always done – we will pray and worship, study the Bible, make friends, tell our stories, and give ourselves away in generosity and service (our five Inside-Out Habits.)
- Luke’s always has been, and will remain, a church with committed, Jesus-following believers across the theological spectrum, with diverse views on a wide variety of social issues. We have always been willing to work and worship with people who disagree with us on various questions, holding fast to the essential issue – God is saving the whole world through the grace of Jesus Christ, received by faith, and put to work in love. On issues of human sexuality and many other issues of Biblical interpretation, we have pastors and leaders with differing views, each with his or her nuanced convictions. Our bishop has called us to “convicted humility,” in which we express our understanding and convictions, with the humility of knowing we may be wrong. Most importantly, we are all committed to welcome all people gladly, and we will love all people with both heart and hand. I have adopted an image that has been helpful for me to understand where we stand: someone asked me “so are you like Switzerland – just neutral?” My response is that we are not like Switzerland – Switzerland just wanted to stay out of the war. Instead, we are like the International Red Cross. We live in an increasingly polarized time, and our calling is to be right in the middle of the cultural battle that rages in the world around us, rescuing, caring for, and loving all, regardless of how they feel about this and many other things. “And when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
- We will continue to keep the main thing the main thing. Last week, we launched our new vision statement, common to every ministry center in St. Luke’s Family of Ministries – St. Luke’s Church, The Story Houston, The Gethsemane Mission, Nick Finnegan Counseling Center, St. Luke’s Day School, After School and Summer Camps, and Bridges Academy – we all are working to bring about “A city transformed by the love of Jesus.” Each of these ministry centers has its own mission statement, its particular mission to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to bring about this vision. This vision is our north star, and it will be the focus of our conversation and work in the days, weeks, and years ahead. We will always concentrate on making a difference, rather than simply making a point.
In the worship services February 17 and 24, we will pray for the session of General Conference, that God’s will, not our own, will be accomplished. I ask you to join me and pray personally to that same end. And then we will trust God with the result.
St. Luke’s Family Reunion | Church Conference Recap
January 27, 2019
St. Luke’s Family Reunion | Church Conference Recap
January 28, 2018
St. Luke’s New Church App – Our Member Toolbox
Want to pay bills, shop, get social, check scores and even do Bible study? Yup -there’s an app for that. And now St. Luke’s has an app!
See it as your member tool box; easy buttons that can get you what you want to access fast. Easy. Fast. Shareable. Get in the know, real time.
Search St Lukes UMC Houston in the app store to download.
Remember— the cool thing about an app is that it’s not just real time information and media at your fingertips (which is pretty cool on its own) but even more, it’s all about sharing with a friend, taking notes, adding events to your calendar, or even hearing from us once in a while through push notifications. Stop by every Sunday in February—no appointment needed!
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Thoughts about Charlottesville
by Dr. Tom Pace
August 20, 2017
I was wrong.
Last Saturday, when the white supremacists marched at Charlottesville, I thought the best response was to ignore them. I urged us all to pray, but also sought to deprive them of the attention they are craving. I refused to let a bunch of haters and a murderer set the agenda for my heart or my church. They are a fringe group, I thought, way out on the edge, and their brand of overt racism is not the real issue in our culture. I still think that part is true. But I have come to believe that their kind of hate is like the little creatures in whack-a-mole. It keeps popping up, and it is up to the whole community to whack it right back down as soon as it pops up. Of course they have the right to speak and say what they want to say. And those of us in the rest of the world have the right to shout them down. And I am so grateful that, pretty much universally across the spectrum of theology and ideology, the world has said “no!”
When extremist murderers attacked innocent people in the name of the Islamic faith, I asked my Muslim friends why some of their own leaders remained silent. They responded just like I did on Saturday: “Those people aren’t us. They don’t represent us. That isn’t is Islam. They aren’t really Muslims; they are terrorist fanatics.” “Yes,” I responded, “but the rest of us need to be reminded of that by you.” And so many Muslim leaders do remind us of that every time it happens. Similarly, those who are targets of white supremacist racism need to be reminded that those people marching with torches don’t represent us, and that what they do is anathema to everything we believe. We shouldn’t have to say it, but it is nonetheless necessary. So, late to the game, I add my voice to the overwhelming chorus. The world has spoken. You are both wrong and destructive to the very fabric of our culture.
The real issues, of course, are deeper than hateful slogans and chants, and more difficult to recognize. The most pervasive racism is built deep into every one of us. It is subtle and deceptive, and just like with most sin, we sinners remain in denial that it is there at all. It is intertwined with so many other issues we face: poverty and crime and violence and history and education and economics and culture and values and opportunity and a dozen more. The church’s job is to acknowledge that sin, and let the love of Jesus Christ work within our hearts to bring about repentance, as well as both personal and social transformation. In the church, we call that “sanctification.” I pray that in the months and years ahead, God will show us ways to do just that. The change won’t come through a triumph of the left or of the right. Nor will it come with the kind of violence and hatred that bubbles up in response to torchlight marches. Jesus always chose to love the people everyone else loved to hate. I believe it will come through a change in the hearts of women and men, through the power of God at work within us. It sounds naïve, but I do believe that “perfect love casts out all fear.”-1 John 4:18. And Jesus is that perfect love.
More from the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church here.
All initiatives proposed at the Church Conference were passed.
June 25, 2017
Board of Stewards Meeting
May 24, 2017
Fellowship Hall Proposed Renovation
The Fellowship Hall Building Study Committee has been working collaboratively over the past several months. The committee is comprised of leaders from St Luke’s Executive Committee, staff, clergy, volunteers, Encounter band, Building Committee as well as Design, Acoustical, Audio/Video/Lighting, and construction consultants.
Our goal has been to bring forth a design that not only takes into account the interior of Fellowship Hall, but beyond that, includes the infrastructure and acoustical needs of a space that will be a multipurpose room that could welcome and host events, meetings, receptions, performances, small groups, Children’s Ministry events, as well transform into a worship space for Encounter on Sundays.
This space was St Luke’s first sanctuary, and over the years the room has been modified into Fellowship Hall, which was renovated back in the 80’s. It has always been our committee’s commitment to honor the space and allow it to come to life for the purpose of growing the Kingdom, while remaining true to St Luke’s Georgian style, heritage and architecture.
Our focus has taken into account the past, present and future of Fellowship Hall. The specific areas included in the design components are; ceiling, back wall, proscenium wall, stage, side walls, refurbished floors, upgrade mechanical, electrical, fire alarm, wood work, audio, visual and lighting.
The renderings pictured here will help you see the space and look beyond.
We look forward to hearing from you and any questions that you may have. Contact Larry Moore at [email protected]
Long Range Planning Committee Aims at Ambitious Goals
St. Luke’s Long Range Planning Committee has been at work seeking God’s preferred future for St. Luke’s ministry. The committee has established eight initiatives as part of our vision for the next five years. By the end of 2023, St Luke’s will:
- Overhaul systems for hospitality, engagement, and leadership development
- Expand strategic communications for traditional worship and all of St. Luke’s ministries
- Enlarge St. Luke’s outreach ministry, including our work in the Gethsemane parish
- Grow the Story Houston as an integral part of St. Luke’s mission
- Strengthen and grow our Encounter worship community
- Build a strong financial foundation for growing ministries
- Improve technology, including a new church management system
- Restructure our governance for more doing and less reporting
Specific strategies are being developed for each of these initiatives, along with objectives and ministry owners. The plan will be presented at a Church Conference on June 25 at 6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. All are welcome! If you have questions or comments, please contact committee co-chairs Kristin Tillman [email protected] or Nick Erwin [email protected].
New Governance Structure Proposed
As part of the plan for the next five years, the Structure sub-committee of the Long Range is proposing a new governance structure for St. Luke’s. The purpose of the change is to move more people into ministries of “doing” on teams, and fewer people on committees, whose primary function is simply oversight. The specific recommendations are that St. Luke’s:
- Replace our current Board of Stewards with two all church conferences each year, for the purpose of communications.
- Create a new Church Council with 17 members, serving the same function as our current Executive Committee.
- Create an Executive Committee of seven officers of the Church Council.
- Reduce standing committees to 4- Lay Leadership, Human Resources, Finance & Operations and Advancement; all have 9 members
- Merge Audit Committee into Finance & Operations; merge Executive Nominating into Lay Leadership
- Replace Discipleship, Worship and Outreach Commissions with enhanced participation in ministry teams
- Involve representatives from all worship communities in governance bodies.
The committee believes that these changes, consistent with United Methodist Book of Discipline, along with specific charters for each of our committees, will make volunteering at St. Luke’s far more productive, and increase volunteer participation across the whole life of the church. If you would like to talk more about this new structure, please contact structure subcommittee chair Vicki Keiser [email protected].