Gathering Stones…Advent 2010

December 1, 2010

After the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job or the loss of a home, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time of poignant grief. Being in community with others can help you cope with the holiday season and the pain and the joy brought about by the traditions associated with this time.  We want to offer you a place to talk about your grief, to learn from others who are grieving, and break down the isolation that death often brings to those of us who are left behind.

We will gather the stones of remembrance and share them with one another. Each lunch will include a time of sharing over a specific aspect of grief. These lunches are open to anyone; particularly those who have experienced a significant loss in the past few years. For more information and to RSVP for a lunch, contact Erin Conaway.

Join us on Wednesdays, December 1, 8, 15, Noon – 1:00 p.m. in LB 204 at South Main Baptist Church.


Sharing our Stories…Vincent Bellone

April 28, 2010

By Vincent Bellone, South Main Member

Vincent Bellone is a new member at South Main Baptist Church.  Vincent is a member of the Prime Timers Sunday School Community and enjoys participating in missions work.

When I moved to Houston in March of 2009, It was important to me to find a church that preached the Bible and practiced unselfish love. When I tragically lost my son and wife three months apart in 2002, it was my church family in Los Angeles that got me through it and whom God used to heal my pain and restore my faith. This is the reason the church is so important to me and why I looked for another church family in Houston.

I visited over eight other churches before I visited South Main, but felt no warmth or love when I walked into them What drew me to South Main Baptist Church was the heartfelt emotion and passion Pastor Steve Wells had in his sermons. I also enjoyed the children’s sermon and seeing Dolores Rader bring the children to the altar where they heard about God’s love. So experiencing all this unselfish love, I decided to fill out the visitor’s card. Then two days later Tom Williams called and introduced himself. Also, I received twenty three letters from people I didn’t know who were telling me to come back and be a part of their church family! They didn’t know that I had been grieving the loss of my wife and son for eight years, and how I still needed to receive unselfish love.

But I also know that when you receive love, you have to give it back two fold. So when I saw the list of all the possible ministries that were available at South Main, I knew I was home, and that God had guided me to this church for a reason. I love Steve’s Bible Study on Wednesday and sitting around the dinner table with friends. I also love all my church family in the Prime Timers’ Sunday School Class. This is why I joined South Main Baptist Church and will never leave it.

We are never more like Jesus than when we SHARE…. As we learn to share our stories, we learn to share our faith…

Share Campaign 2010

Bringing Black Back

October 13, 2009
By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

I went to a seminar last week about grief. The room was filled with clergy and funeral directors. It seemed like the start of a terrific joke, but nothing ever materialized. The speaker was incredible: Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt who has done extensive work and writing with and about grief (he’s even been on Oprah!). Dr. Wolfelt talked about several aspects of grief and mourning and the difference between the two. One of the things he said was that grief was something that happened internally while mourning was something that was external. He talked about how lousy we are at mourning—how we try to stuff it away and hide it from our friends and the people around us because it makes them and us feel uncomfortable. He lamented the fact that we have lost the practice of wearing mourning clothes. Used to, when a person died, we would wear all black as a part of our mourning and a sign of our grief. That let people know we were grieving the loss of a loved one and they were invited to share in our mourning and would do so by asking, “who died?” That would allow us to tell our story to different people who were thoughtful enough to ask and it gave us an avenue to keep our grief open through our mourning. He noted that when you don’t allow yourself to feel a feeling, you become closed and “stuck;” unable to be changed by it or to use it or to allow God to touch it in some way.

We have so many wonderful things happening right now in the life of the church, but at the same time, we are missing the presence of people we loved and walked with for many years. We are also walking with people who are trudging through various illnesses and limitations and fears and doubts. I worry that in the midst of celebrating what is wonderful, we will further cast into the shadows the broken parts and render them hidden from one another and from the kind of transformation that can happen to us when we share one another’s burdens. So I hope we bring black back—maybe literally, but maybe just figuratively and we talk to each other about our grief and we mourn with one another without shame or fear of marginalization. I think when we do that, we come to realize God’s hand in our midst, working and moving in our stories as we share them together, to bring comfort and peace and most importantly…redemption.

South Main Baptist Church

Thanks be to God for church

August 30, 2009
Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

I think I have figured out which season I am.

My second year of divinity school, my theology prof, Dr. Frank Tupper, delivered a lecture called, “The Seasons of Spirituality,” in which he sought to affirm the uniqueness and diversity of the spiritual journey. Beginning with Summer, Frank explained that the person who embodies summer-y spirituality lives perpetually in light and hope of the empty tomb; all is sunshine and roses. These are the kind of folks when you ask them how they are, they say, “Well, I am just so blessed!” My mom is totally a Summer person, and I love her for it because it rubbed off on me! The other side of the coin is the Christian who embodies a Spirituality of Winter. Shadowed by an old, rugged cross, these folk live lives plagued by painful questions that never seem to discover answers. Like Jacob, they spend their lives wrestling with God by the riverside, gaining only more questions (and a nasty limp). Frank gave us two warnings though: 1) no one can be exclusively summer or winter, because we are all a funny mixture of doubt and faith, and 2) the one should be very careful as to not judge the other–the summer-y is not superficial and naive and the winter-y is not consumed by their own woundedness and faithlessness.

The truth of the matter is that we need each other.

We have a tendency as humans to categorize. Boxes are helpful. They make sense. By identifying, clarifying, and naming we lay claim to things, places, peoples, and ideologies. So, I write this a bit tongue-in-cheek, because I am doing just that, but this is a helpful practice to give us a sense of location in trying to understand each other, I believe. This categorizing is often born out of the curiosity to understand–to know–and that is good and right for us to do. Nonetheless, human beings are not the sum of their theologies, ideologies, ethnicities, genders, political leanings, faith perspectives, hopes, and dreams. We are who we are–the children of God created the prismatic beauty of God’s image. So, I said that to say, I believe that I naturally gravitate towards a Spirituality of Spring. While surrounded by, “the bleak midwinter, Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone,” the reality of resurrection courses through my veins giving me the hope and courage to declare,

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!

Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!

Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

This is the hope that gets me out of bed in the morning and gives my life purpose and meaning. Out of the cold, dark winter, the light and hope of spring breaks forth.

Recently, my Aunt Ann died. Her death was a devastating shock for the family, and to be honest rattled me more than any death I have experienced up to this point in my life. When my cousin Rodney died, he suffered from a tragic, pugnacious form of cancer that slowly devoured his body…but could not conquer his soul. We sat with Rodney. We prayed with Rodney. We were able to say goodbye to Rodney. But, when Aunt Ann left, there was no farewell, not even a moment to share one last laughter or tear. Although, with bitter ends come sweet beginnings.

As I prepared to leave so that I might grieve with my family, I was met by waves of kindness, compassion, and love from a family I have grow to love and know over the past year of my life–South Main. After my mom called me that sunny Thursday morning to tell me what happened, I wept in my office for a good ten or fifteen minutes as our 9:00 staff meeting approached. When, I say to you that I love the people I work with, I mean with all sincerity and honesty that those seven other people with whom I sit around that conference table every Monday and Thursday are some of the finest friends I have known in my short 27 years. As if that was not enough, my youth–my sweet, precious youth–sent the kindest words of affirmation and peace, and the well wishes from all my delightful parents were absolutely breath-taking. And, sure enough, at the funeral home in Fort Smith, Arkansas, there stood a beautiful floral arrangement with the words scratched into the card, “With Love…From South Main Baptist Church.” That previous Sunday morning while I was still in Dallas with my family, I went to my home church, arrived entirely too early, and wandered the halls trying to figure out which Sunday School class I was supposed to be in and where everyone else was. I felt like a visitor. A stranger in a strange land. Then, in a moment of clarity I thought, “I miss South Main.” Don’t get me wrong, I will forever hold the most sacred love for Royal Lane, but I realized that my home was some place else now. I am a Houstonian. I am a South Mainer.

During the funeral, I watched as numerous people rose to take the microphone to speak a kind word about my Aunt Ann. With each memorial offered, my soul resonated deeper and deeper with the words, “Thanks be to God for church.” I am a churchman deep in my marrow, and I have been called to and accepted the call to live my life among the consecrated and commissioned Community of Christ, but even when all my theological chips are down and all pretense and erudition are stripped away, church is the place where I know faith still inspires, hope still stirs, and love still conquers the hardest of hearts. We don’t always get it perfect or right, but that is because none of us are perfect or right. When we do get it right though, and we learn to love each other–from the YAC to the Men’s Bible Class–and love the weary and the hungry–from Collique to Peggy’s Point–the Holy Spirit gathers the broken fragments of this world and weaves us into the People of God.

Apparently, I was just too close to the picture to see what goodness God could salvage out of the messiness and tragedy of death. Even in the winter of grief and loss, I witnessed resurrection by discovering a new sense of home, a new family, and friends with whom I might walk the journey.

Thanks be to God for church.