Accepting the Call

May 26, 2011

The Conaway Family: (left to right) Sam, Carmen, Erin and Alex

To My Dear South Main Family,

Guided as we believe by the Holy Spirit through a process of listening and discernment, Carmen and Alex and Sam and I have accepted the call for me to be the next Pastor of Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, TX. There are so many things churning within us about this decision: humble enthusiasm about this next step, plenty of trepidation about the new role and responsibilities, deep pain about being three hours away from you and about leaving this church family and my privileged position of walking with you through so many sacred spaces; but beneath the roller coaster of emotions there is an overwhelming sense of peace that this is exactly what God is calling us to do. We have been completely embraced by the people at Seventh and have felt and continue to feel their joy and excitement about our days to come.

The timing seems to be way off, I’m telling you this on the first Sunday after our pastor is gone on a much deserved and now I think very timely sabbatical. Steve has been a part of this journey the entire way through. He and I have talked this to death, prayed about it a lot, and he has been a wonderful encourager and given me his blessing at every step along the way. We have worked so closely together these past eight years and have provided real balance to one another-it’s hard for me to imagine doing ministry without him and I know I will stagger around some while I get my bearings as we both learn to do this in different places. All along we have talked with you about our Sabbatical plan, and that will not change-we still have a strong pastoral team in place to serve with you through Steve’s time away, and that will include me for most of that journey. Our last Sunday here will be July 17th, so we have plenty of time to walk this season of transition in our journey in ministry together.

And I want you to hear me say, in no way could I go there if I had not been here.

This is the place where I learned so much of what I know about being a minister;

This is the place where nine years ago, you took a chance and called a dirt salesman to help out in the college ministry and our love affair began;

This is the place where we learned what it means to serve a church family with all that we are and to be loved in return in ways we could not have imagined;

This is the place where we began the wonderful and terrifying journey of parenthood and you walked this path with us every step of the way;

This is the place where I learned what it is to be a part of a team in ministry and to see the wonder of God using our different gifts and talents to do far more with us together than we could ever do apart;

This is the place where my missional heart has exploded trying to keep up with how fast and how far God’s love is flowing out to our neighbors here and around the world;

This is the place where my heart has heard your stories and held them close-in agony and celebration you have allowed me to sit with you and pray with you and hear you and I will forever be blessed because of that great privilege;

This is the place I will always cherish and you will be a part of us wherever we go. Thank you, thank you, thank you from our hearts that are overflowing with your blessing and your love.

Grace & Truth,

Erin, Carmen, Alex & Sam Conaway

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Y’All Come Hear Kate Campbell, OK?

May 9, 2011

Kate Campbell in Concert at South Main

By David and Mary Corban – David serves as the chair of deacons and Mary has prepared thousands of meals for our youth and church family. They are parents to Andrew and Ethan and members of the Graceland Sunday School Community.

You need to come hear Kate Campbell when she performs at South Main’s Youth Center on Saturday evening, May 14. Previous notices of this event have touted Kate’s gifts as a musician and songwriter, and folks in the music business obviously regard Kate as a thoughtful (sometimes even side-slapping) lyricist – else she would not have had guest artists on her most recent CD such as John Prine, Nanci Griffith, and Spooner Oldham. Her music is rooted in traditional Southern hymns, the blues, soul, R&B, country, and folk music, and she tours extensively across America and overseas in support of her CDs, including an upcoming tour to Ireland.

We would add that Kate conveys a real sense of time and place in her music. If you were a child in the South during the 1960’s, her songs will speak to you. When she sings the humorous “Funeral Food” or “Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon,” she captures the scene so well because you’ve been there — you’ve eaten the food, shared the laughter, and stopped at the roadside produce stands with hand-lettered signs. Other songs tell stories that touch the heart in a more serious vein, like “Visions of Plenty,” which vividly portrays a family’s desire to overcome poverty in the rural South.

But more importantly, we need to point out that Kate is the grand-daughter of Kathryn Henry (Kathryn and David’s mother were life-long best friends, and yes, that’s Kathryn on the cover of Kate’s CD, Moon Pie Dreams); the daughter of a Baptist minister, Jimmy Henry, who grew up with David’s brother, Bruce; and the wife of another fine fellow, Stan Campbell, who formerly pastored the Corban family’s church in Orlinda, Tennessee. Now if you can follow all those relational connections, then you must be a Southerner, either by birth or inclination; well acquainted with fried chicken and garden-grown tomatoes; and generally gifted with a sense of humor and an appreciation of music, history, literature, and the storytelling arts.

In other words, you are a Kate Campbell fan just waiting to blossom.

So come join the Corbans and the rest of the South Main family when Kate Campbell performs in the Youth Center on Saturday, May 14 at 7 pm. Tickets are available here. (Alternatively, David says to just give him some money and he’ll see what we can do.) Oh, and bring your friends, too!

South Main Baptist Church – The Inner Loop Church


Thinking about worship

May 1, 2011

By Melissa Scott, South Main Member

Melissa Scott is currently living abroad in Doha, Qatar with her family. This was reprinted by her permission from her family blog post on March 31, 2011.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about worship.

Actually, I’ve having a little bit of an internal struggle about it. We are attending a church here in Doha and to be honest, the worship style is a little bit hard for me. It’s very contemporary – different in every way from what we are used to in Houston at South Main Baptist Church, and even before that. The worship is led by rotating teams, a different leader each week. I think I understand contemporary worship – that it’s meant to be very organic and emotional. I appreciate the poetic song texts and the rock/pop style and I also appreciate that lots of different kinds of musicians can be a part of it and the whole congregation can participate.

That’s all good stuff. But – in the end it just doesn’t move me. It’s hard for me to connect – too much noise, it sounds too forced and unintentional, and I just don’t ever feel I’m a part of it. I find myself tuning out, watching the time, and kind of retreating into my own thoughts – blocking it out and waiting for it to be over. Trying to fix my face into a relaxed expression rather than a pinched wince. Why is that? I’m not sure, but here’s a little excerpt from a devotional I read recently:

These Are My Gifts

I am opening the treasure of my heart to look for gifts to give you, my King. My offerings reflect the ways I worship you in the everyday. Love for my family. Kindness to others. Help in the face of need. Faith in the future. Trust through doubt. Lord, please accept these responses as they reflect my deep affection for You.

From One – Minute Devotions for Women by Hope Lyda

Though the devotion is about gifts and what we can offer up to God in our daily lives – I still feel there’s a message for me written in the text about worship. I have to sit with the idea that worship isn’t about a style or even a specific 15-minute window during each week. Worship is about responding and honoring God every minute. To say I don’t connect with a certain style of worship is to say I’m not really seeking to connect with God. That is very convicting for me. And, if I have any gifts to offer – aren’t they gifts of music? What am I doing exactly – sitting in chairs and waiting for the 15 minutes to pass each Friday during the service? How does that fit into any sort of obedience to God’s call on my life? What does it say about my deep devotion for Christ?

So it was already on my mind and then I got an email from my church specifically about worship. A few years ago I participated in a committee. We were asked to take a critical look at worship at the church we attend in Houston. I visited several other congregations – listened to their worship services and we spent long hours talking within the committee about what was good, maybe not so good, and how it all fits with the vision and church culture at South Main. It was a task force of sorts – focused on examining and thinking about what worship means to that congregation and how we could make it meaningful each week.

As I reread the report, I was quickly reminded that the act of worship is not about me. It’s not about getting something. It’s about what we each give to God in every moment.

What does it matter how I think a worship service should look, feel, and sound? It’s more about what we offer up to the God who makes all things new. Intentional worship is about taking time weekly to attend to your relationship with God. To refocus and remind ourselves that we are called to be different, that we have decided to follow Jesus, and that the stuff of life that takes such a front and center place in our thinking may not be what God wants us to focus on. So, I’m trying to step over my opinions and preferences and my need to have things feel like home, and into a place of obedience and renewal. God has brought us here to Doha for a reason (or several reasons), and I believe that every part of the experience has the ability to teach and grow us.

This verse helps crystalize that idea for me:

Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. –Romans 12:2

I’m also trying to remember that in working to honor God in the way I care for the girls and my students, in offering friendship and encouragement to an expat friend, and in continuing to build a strong relationship with Steve – I am in a way worshiping. I’m offering my best to God and showing my deep devotion to Him. Through love, kindness, help, faith, and trust I am honoring God. Or trying to, at least. These are some of the thoughts that are holding my attention these days. I can’t promise that when next Friday morning rolls around I won’t be struggling, but I will be hoping for renewal and for a fresh perspective. Maybe one of these Sundays there will be an opportunity for me to lead worship and I’ll be able to embrace it and follow God’s call through it.

I’m trying to keep moving in that direction.

#innerloopchurch