New chances. New life. New futures.

February 23, 2011

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

I’ve seen two things recently on which–I think–God wants me to reflect. These two events represent, on one hand, the paradoxical spectrum of work that we ministers do from time to time.

First off, let me say, have you ever had one of those weeks where you had like three things you HAD to get done, and by Thursday you realize, due to other metaphorical fires that need extinguishing (Tom Ehlers, a firefighter, is one of my all-star youth leaders, so I feel as though I should specify the figurative, imaginary nature of MY fires), you have not done any of those tasks? Yep. That is what I am talking about.

Armed with a cup of coffee and the best intentions, I set out to complete my task: DiscipleNOW logistics, an exhaustive email to Host Homes and Leaders, and Curriculum, Curriculum, Curriculum! In the words of the great poet, Meatloaf…two outta three ain’t bad…right?

As the morning rolled along and I crafted my emails and work, like Michelangelo if he had an Apple Laptop and was writing emails, and I received a distressing email from my beloved former church colleague, now turned city-wide colleague, the always marvelous, Chelsea Wade, who is now doing extraordinary development work over at SEARCH Homeless Service. It was the day of their GED Graduation service, and Erin Conaway was commissioned to offer the invocation. The pianist for the service canceled at the last minute, and they needed not only a keyboardist, but a keyboard itself. Fortunately, the ever-resourceful Thomas Coker had an extra electronic keyboard in his office that he allowed me to take to Chelsea. After dropping off this relic from 1994 of an instrument (Hey, it played notes at least!), I left SEARCH. A hour later, poor, sweet Chelsea discovers that her now back-up keyboardist has canceled, and asks if I can bring my guitar and play a little. Erin and I rush to my house where my trusty guitar, affectionately named Hudson by my friend Chris August, the previous owner, and I see my new accordion. “Hmm, I wonder…” I pick up my accordion and play, without a blemish the first half of pomp and circumstance, and then fumble through a few notes. Surprising as it might seem, I am not so bold and brash to carry an instrument I can barely play (I am getting there, but not quite yet!), to a graduation service and blare out tunes on my accordion (Yet to be named, btw).

We arrive to the service, and in walk the graduates. Two young men enter from the back wearing green graduation robes and hats, followed by many others who are being promoted to the next level within the program. As the teachers and also Mike Feinberg who started KIPP and Yes Prep (If you don’t know what these are, google them) rose to spoke, a sense of affirmation and pride swelled in the room. I can’t speak for everyone else in the room, but the dining area at SEARCH, for that moment at least, became holy ground…a place of second, third, fourth, possibly even seventy times seven chances…a place of resurrection and salvation. One woman rose to tell her story, a story of abuse, addiction, failure, and ultimately victory and redemption. She ended by saying, as simply as I have ever heard, yet more profoundly than all my seminary classes combine, “When I was going through recovery, my sponsor always said, ‘I know it’s hard, but with God all things are possible.'”

New chances. New life. New futures. Who could ask for more for these young men?

So as I right this on a cold evening, I took my youth bowling at Palace Bowling Lanes. To match the standard Kid’s Night Out format, we were scheduled to be at Palace Lanes from 6:30 to 10:00 bowling. In case you have not done the math, that’s 3 1/2 hours of being in the same place with a gaggle of middle schoolers and high schoolers. Now, faithful blog reader, if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’…our group two years ago would have after about 2 hours started fussing about how bored they were or just left…but not this group. Our youth group has gone through some major maturation and evolution in the past two and a half years I have been here. It takes time to knit community, and God is doing that with us on a day to day basis. Tonight, I was absolutely floored at the camaraderie, patience, love, enthusiasm, and joy that just permeated our five lanes. Everyone being cheered for when they knocked down even one pin, and then encouraged on every gutterball.

I told some of my leaders, “Look at this. They just love each other!” The drama, cliques, and junk all left at the door…high schoolers and middle schoolers playing together and just living life and loving every second of it. I struggle a great deal to think how I can make this group closer and better.

Am I one good curriculum or night of worship away from becoming exactly who God has created us to be? I think not. I think we are, in fact, already exactly who God created us to be, but the beauty with how God sees workmanship is that the work is never complete. We are all at once whole and perfectly formed, and broken, longing for repair.

What do these stories have to do with each other. Maybe nothing at all. Maybe everything. What seems to amaze me the most about how God does whatever it is that God does is that so often the most beautiful, holy, sacred moments in life are the ones that we don’t orchestrate…we just show up with our guitar to make some music or we buy a couple of pizzas and God takes those meager offerings and before we know it, we stand in the presence of the Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.


Sharing Our Stories…Allison Jefferies

April 15, 2010

By Allison Jefferies, South Main Member

Allison Jefferies is a South Main Member who volunteers in the SMILE program and is part of the Fellowship of Young Families Sunday School Community.

Rob and I were married in the Westmoreland Chapel on June 30, 2001, but my life at South Main began even earlier. Rob and I met waiting tables while attending the University of Houston. We dated for a couple of years, graduated, started our careers and were engaged soon thereafter.

Why did we choose to join South Main? To tell the truth, I really just wanted to make sure he would go to church with me after we were married. I grew up at a St. Peter’s United Methodist church in Katy and was very active through high school, but had moved away during college. It was my desire to have a family that went to church together and knew we needed to start somewhere.

I asked Rob if he wanted to come with me to my church in Katy and he said, “Why don’t we go to South Main?” I was willing to try. I never assumed growing up that I would be at my childhood church for my whole life, but apparently he assumed he would be at his. Rob is a third generation South Mainer.

In 2000, before Rob and I were engaged, Dr. Ken Chafin started a new Sunday School class called New Beginnings for people just like Rob and me. Dr. Chafin, Betty and Julian Moss, and Maxine Bower were looking for young adult members and their fiancé(e)s or spouses who had grown up at South Main, were living in Houston, and were not as active as they should be. We started attending Dr. Chafin’s class and never looked back.

I love the teaching at South Main and, even more, I love the friends that we have made. Over the years I have had the opportunity to get involved in many ministries such as SMILE and SEARCH as well as serve on the stewardship committee. Today, Rob and I are raising our two daughters, Jenna and Ruby, and they seem to love South Main as much as we do.

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


Manna…it’s good Church

March 5, 2010

By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

I went to a luncheon for SEARCH this week—that’s an organization here in midtown that was started by several congregations (South Main was one of them) many years ago to help the homeless in a variety of ways.  It’s a great organization and you can read more about them on their website.  At the luncheon we watched a video and one of the clients was sharing his story and he talked about being married and having a home and all the things you would think comprise a “normal” life and then his marriage fell apart and he got a divorce and he said, “After my divorce…I just sank into myself.”  It brought tears to my eyes to hear him articulate his depression so poetically and vividly.  He found at SEARCH a welcoming place and it changed his life.

Every Sunday morning, we gather in the North Parking lot, out by our tower on Main Street and we engage in a ministry we call “Manna.”  Basically, we meet with our homeless sisters and brothers to share a cup of coffee and our stories.  We talk about our prayer requests and we pray together.  We share a reading from Scripture and we sing “Amazing Grace.”  We also pass out “manna bags” that have things to eat now or later—crackers and peanut butter, granola bars and a bottle of water and sometimes a new pair of socks—when you’re homeless, new socks feel incredible!

Manna comes from the story in the Bible when the Israelites were wandering around in the dessert all grumpy about missing watermelon back in Egypt where they were slaves and God told them that God would take care of them and when they woke up in the mornings there would be this stuff on the ground that they called manna which basically means “what is it?” and they could gather up enough for the day and cook it and eat it.  God told them not to save any of it except on the day before the Sabboth, because they needed to learn to trust that God would provide.  So each day, they would wake up and there’s all this manna around to make flatbread for the journey.  God threw in some quail too, but that’s another story.  So they found what they needed in this serendipitous blessing of the morning.

That’s what we find at Manna on Sunday mornings.  We don’t call it that because we’re giving people enough stuff to get them through a day—although that is true.  We call it manna because we, both the people here at the church who participate and our homeless neighbors find enough in our fellowship to get us through another day.  It is truly beautiful and surprising and a wonderful way to start a Sunday—with the serendipitous blessing of meeting our neighbors and sharing life together…it’s good Church.

www.innerloopchurch.com