Is Not This The Fast That I Choose?

From National MFSA office:

“This is the sort of fast that pleases me:
Remove the chains of injustice!
Let those who are oppressed go free,
and break every yoke you encounter!
Share your bread with those who are hungry,
and shelter homeless poor people!
Clothe those who are naked,
and don’t hide from the needs of your own flesh and blood!
Do this, and your light will shine like the dawn —
and your healing will break forth like lightning!
Your integrity will go before you,
and the glory of YHWH will be your rearguard.”
Isaiah 58: 6-8 — The Inclusive Bible

Jan L. Richardson in her poem “Blessing the Dust” describes Ash Wednesday in this way: “This is the day we freely say we are scorched. This is the hour we are marked by what has made it through the burning.”

Today is the day we acknowledge our humanity, our mortality and our interconnectedness to the earth. The day we say the fires stoked by the flames of injustice may have marked us but, we are rising from its ashes.

Today is the day we begin the fast preparing us for the long journey that will lead to new life in the resurrection. This Lent we will journey alongside the prophet Isaiah exploring what it means to be people of faith fasting from injustice.

Will you join us in our fast by making a contribution to support our work to seek racial, gender and economic justice for all people? 

Our legacy of fasting from injustice is faithfully long. We’ve been scorched by the powers and principalities of this nation and of this denomination. As Richardson described “we are marked by what has made it through the burning” and as our baptismal covenant proclaims we continue to rise up and “resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever form it presents itself.” In 1908 our founders envisioned “equal rights and complete justice for all.” We continue that struggle today.

Join us as we rise up and resist all that stands in the way of love in the rotundas of our city halls and the floors of our General Conference. Your support is more important than ever as we prepare for a special session of General Conference in 2019 as well as continue to resist evil, injustice and oppression at the local, state and federal level.

 

Your voice makes sacred change possible each and every day.

MFSA Monthly Meeting Thursday, February 8

The February meeting of the Rio Texas Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) will take place Thursday, February 8, at Saint John’s UMC, Austin.  The program will focus on the Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors (ARJFON) effort, which is part of a national United Methodist network of legal clinics based in United Methodist churches around the country.  Our speaker will provide updates on JFON’s activities as they attempt to address immigration issues in an increasingly challenging social environment.

ARJFON, a non-profit law office, welcomes refugees and immigrants into our communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy.  ARJFON strives to empower immigrants bring about systematic change through active participation in our community.

Please join us to learn about this much-needed ministry.  Snacks and mingling begin at 6:30p; the program will start at 7p.  Hope to see you there!

Mark Your Calendars

MFSA Delegation Visits The Rio Grande Valley

On January 18 – 20, a group of 9 people from the Methodist Federation for Social Action in Austin went to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) on an immigration education tour. Steve Hamlett, Kenneth Henry and Deana Henry are from Trinity Church Austin.  Anne Mund, Rowland Curry, Al Lindsay, Pat Stewart, Patsy Hickey, and Lyn Loeffler are members of Saint John’s UMC Austin.  Our guide for the tour was Susan Hellums, Border Area Mission Coordinator for the El Valle District from First UMC McAllen.

A more detailed description of our visit will soon be available on our website.

On Thursday, we attended a presentation in San Juan on the RGV Equal Voice Network, which has several components addressing the following issues:  health care, education, wages and jobs, housing, and transportation.  The housing initiative, Proyecto Azteca, was founded in 1991 by Cesar Chavez, is similar to “sweat equity” programs like Habitat for Humanity, and has 4,000 families on its waiting list.

Friday, we traveled to the Hidalgo County Park to view the Rio Grande River, Mexico, and portions of the border wall.  We then went to First UMC McAllen to hear a presentation on the Tamar’s Tapestry program by Tracy Hughes.  We were joined by Robert Lopez, Superintendent of the El Valle District.  Tamar’s Tapestry provides intervention, education, and restoration for victims of human trafficking in the RGV.  Data is horrifying; there are an estimated 79,000 persons in Texas that are victims of commercial sex trafficking.

After this presentation and lunch, we drove to San Benito to visit La Posada Providencia, a short-term shelter for immigrants and asylum seekers.  While it is a Catholic charity, La Posada receives help from the UMC in many ways.  Deaconess Cindy Johnson was our guide at La Posada as we visited with the Sisters and others.  We were introduced to a group of about a dozen immigrants from Central America, Cuba, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

Saturday morning, we toured the Humanitarian Respite Center, sponsored by the Catholic Charities RGV, where refugees in transit are provided with information, food, clothing, hygiene products, and other assistance before boarding a bus to join family, friends, or sponsors in other parts of the country.  Our group then volunteered to do a short service project, sorting donated clothing for the refugees.

Before heading back to Austin, we drove through a Colonia near Edinburgh to observe the conditions that we had heard about in several presentations.

This MFSA road trip was extremely enlightening and educational, and we hope it will guide us in pursuing further mission opportunities related to immigration.  Our plan is to present an in-depth report on this trip at a future meeting, most likely in April.

MFSA National Office Move Planned

As many of you have already learned, MFSA has decided to relocate their national headquarters office to Central UMC in Detroit in mid-2018.  This announcement follows a lengthy discernment and visioning process that includes a recommitment to local church and community-led grassroots organizing.  Unlike MFSA’s current location in a Lutheran church on Capitol Hill in Washington, Detroit Central UMC will offer adequate office space, conference rooms, and other amenities needed for the headquarters.  MFSA is also posting for the Executive Director position, replacing interim E.D. Darlene DiDomeneck.

More information here.

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

TCADP 2018 Annual Conference in Dallas February 17, 2018

TCADP’s Annual Conference is a one-day event geared towards anyone interested in learning about the death penalty and becoming involved in our efforts.  It features a panel discussion, workshops, a keynote address, and the presentation of our annual awards.  You don’t want to miss this opportunity to connect with supporters from across the state and hear about the progress we are making towards ending the death penalty in Texas!

The TCADP 2018 Annual Conference will take place on Saturday, February 17, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. Registration includes breakfast and the awards luncheon.  Tickets are available for the luncheon and keynote address for those who can attend only part of the day. We accept cash, check, or credit card as payment.

Contact us at 512-441-1808 or khoule@tcadp.org if you have questions.

Crop Hunger Walk

 The Austin CROP Hunger Walk is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, February 25 at Camp Mabry.  Registration opens at 2:00 with the Step-Off at 2:30.

 

Register and raise funds online—it’s easy! Go to www.crophungerwalk.org/austintx to sign up.

 

Thank you Austin Hunger Heroes – $72,614.47 raised at the 2017 Walk.

 

YOU make the difference

iACT Red Bench

The Red Bench – HOME

Join us on Tuesday, February 27 for a courageous conversation on

the topic of Home at Unity Church of Austin
(5501 West Highway 290, Austin TX 78735).

If you plan to attend, please RSVP

BOPA Collection Scheduled March 10

BOPA (Batteries, Oil, Paint, Antifreeze) Recycling in the parking lot across from Trinity Church Austin, 4001 Speedway on Saturday March 10, starting at 9 am. We’ll close at 11 am or when our trailers are full, whichever comes first.  Bring Batteries, Oil, Paint and Antifreeze (the last three in closed containers). We can accept only these items! They will be taken to the city’s hazardous waste recycling depot. Just drive up, give your zip code (requested by the city) and volunteers will unload your vehicle.

Bring your stuff, or volunteer to help!

Rio Texas Annual Conference 2018

Rio Texas MFSA will be there!

Stay tuned for more information…

MFSA Participates in Austin MLK March

MFSA – Austin members participated in the MLK Celebration and Community March on January 15

Plaque Commemorates Lynching Victims

The Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative reports 335 lynching victims in Texas between 1877 and 1950.  MFSA representatives joined about 250 gathered on December 16 in an East Austin church to remember those anonymous deaths.  Later, under a steady, cold rain, most of those people huddled outside as Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder, Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett unveiled a blue-and-gold plaque in front of Wesley United Methodist Church.  The plaque, headlined “Lynching in Travis County,” is the seventh such remembrance installed by the Alabama-based EJI nationwide and the first from that group in Texas. (Photo courtesy Austin American-Statesman)

2017 Report from the Hope Food Pantry

Hope Food Pantry Austin is held up high by all of your contributions and dedication!   Together, we are a powerhouse of support for hundreds of families.   The ripple effect of relief and sustenance to the families in search of our services for 2017 was to:

  • Distribute food equivalent to 170,809 meals.
  • Purchase eggs, meat, and other staples each week to ensure availability to ALL.
  • Rescue 48,358 pounds of fresh produce/food and 1080 pounds of fresh flowers from:

Trader Joe’s, Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, and Pepperidge Farm.

  • Collect 65,983 pounds of food from community food drives.
  • Provide 450 backpacks full of nutritious food to AISD students in need.
  • Expand the Hope Closet and Children’s library.

Thank you for your wonderful and dedicated volunteer service to helping others in their time of need.

Welcome, Austin New Church!

Austin New Church (ANC), a congregation in the process of becoming part of the Rio Texas Conference, celebrated their first Sunday worship service in their new location this week. ANC is now gathering on the former Faith UMC campus in South Austin.

While this was ANC’s first Sunday service on the new campus, they previously celebrated Christmas Eve a day early at Faith UMC on December 23. The church began renovation on the sanctuary in early January to be ready for this Sunday’s worship.

The freshly updated sanctuary welcomed a large crowd. “The seats are full,” said Rev. Laura Merrill, Assistant to the Bishop of Rio Texas. “Youth even claimed the balcony—some things never change!”

Faith UMC Lay Leader Chuck McClenon was asked to share words, and he extended to the congregation a warm welcome to the location:

ANC Pastor Jason Morriss took time during the service to welcome those who previously worshiped at Faith UMC. He acknowledged the mixed emotions experienced by Faith UMC members:
“There is pain and loss that is involved in this chapter [of this church’s life],” said Morriss, “but many of you have been praying for us.” He recognized those who served in leadership capacity at Faith UMC will continue to lead in ministry with ANC.

What Have Your Donations Supported?

Donations to MFSA support our mission to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive United Methodist movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation.  Our programs and activities in 2017 included the following:

Within the Annual & General Conferences

  • Co-sponsored the 7th Annual Peace & Justice Luncheon at Annual Conference in Corpus Christi in June 2017 featuring John Hill, Assistant General Secretary for Advocacy and Grassroots Organizing for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
  • Witnessed with a booth at Annual Conference including education on social justice issues.
  • Partnered with the conference Reconciling Ministries Team to support full inclusion in the UMC.
  • Reported progress of the Commission on the Way Forward through monthly newsletter.

Local Activities and Programs

  • Provided educational programs about social justice issues and opportunities for participation with an emphasis on creating a culture of nonviolence.
  • Supported justice & faith organizations such as Austin Interfaith, Texas Impact, TCADP, Texas Gun Sense, and Austin Region JFON & San Antonio JFON with donations.
  • Sponsored a successful recycling event for hazardous waste; batteries, oil, paint, and antifreeze.
  • Participated in MLK March in Austin.
  • Witnessed at the Texas State Capitol supporting LGBT rights, education, and women’s rights.
  • Supported Ugandan women and children by selling BeadforLife products at Alternative Christmas Markets in Austin.

Looking Ahead in 2018

  • March in the Austin MLK March, which happened on January 15.
  • Offer BOPA (Batteries, Oil, Paint, & Antifreeze) recycling event, March 10 at Trinity Church Austin.
  • Sponsor a fact-finding trip to the Rio Grande Valley to learn about services available for victims of human trafficking and for people seeking asylum in the US.
  • Witness with Reconciling Ministries Network at the Rio Texas UMC Annual Conference in Corpus Christi in June and organize our Annual Peace & Justice Luncheon- June 6-9.

Other Witness, Actions, and Events throughout 2018.