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Summer of Stories

Sunday, July 10, 2016

9:45am - 10:45am

Fiedler Atrium

We are excited to announce this summer’s speaker series, Summer of Stories, featuring local storytellers of varying backgrounds.

Sunday, July 10

ss-couch“Stories for the Telling” Tim Couch

Tim is a nationally known storyteller. He will spin tales that will inspire and excite.

After practicing law in Dallas for fourteen years, most of those years as an Assistant District Attorney handling child abuse cases, Tim Couch changed careers.  He took a job at the Episcopal School of Dallas teaching religion to Middle School students.  Tim is now in his twenty-third year in the classroom.  It was his change in career that caused Tim to discover his love of storytelling.  Tim has told stories in the classroom, libraries, museums, churches, the Bath House Cultural Center, Dallas Heritage Village, and the State Fair of Texas.

Tim was a Featured Teller at the 2014 Texas Storytelling Festival.  He has also been a Featured Teller at the Spirit of Oklahoma Storytelling Festival.  He has lead storytelling workshops for storytelling guilds, teachers in the Fort Worth School District, and at the Texas Storytelling Conference.  He is a past-president of the Tejas Storytelling Association and the Dallas Storytelling Guild.

Sunday, July 17

ss-recinos“Stories We Don’t Hear” Hal Recinos

Dr. Recinos is on the faculty at Perkins and has a passion for those on the margins. Through his work in El Salvador, he will tell stories of people and places that often go unseen or ignored.

Harold Recinos is professor of Church and Society at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.  Professor Recinos received his Masters in Divinity in 1982 from Union Theological Seminary, a Doctor of Ministry in parish ministry in 1986 from New York Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Philosophy with honors (Ph.D.) in cultural anthropology in 1993 from the American University in Washington, D.C..  In addition to numerous articles in scholarly publications and chapters in collections,  Recinos’ publications include Hear the Cry! A Latino Pastor Challenges the Church (Westminster John Knox Press, 1989), Jesus Weeps: Global Encounters on Our Doorstep (Abingdon Press, 1992), Who Comes in the Name of the Lord? Jesus At the Margins (Abingdon Press, 1997), Good News from the Barrio: Prophetic Witness for the Church(Westminster John Knox Press, 2006),  Harold J. Recinos and Hugo Magallanes, eds. Jesus in the Hispanic Community: Images of Christ from Theology to Popular Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).  Harold J. Recinos ed. Wading Through Many Voices: Toward a Theology of Public Conversation (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011).   Recinos is an accomplished poet with pieces in Anglican Theological Review, Sojouners, The Other Side, Monthly Review Press, Weavings, Perspective,  and Spiritus: A Journal for Christian Spirituality.   More recently,  he published his two collections of poetry, Voices on the Corner  (RP press) and Long Way Home (Floricanto Press, 2016).   Since the mid-1980s,  Professor Recinos has worked with the Salvadoran refugee community and with marginal communities in El Salvador for social justice.  He is an ordained elder and member of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Sunday, July 24

ss-peacock“Stories through Song” Micah Peacock

Micah is a singer/songwriter and will be sharing stories of his music and singing some songs.

From our first breath to our final sigh, music soundtracks our lives.  Verses benchmark our greatest successes and deepest regrets.  Melodies map our highest hopes and most harrowing heartaches.  A cacophony of sound inaugurates our living and memorializes our dying.   And perhaps through more than any other form of communication, the medium of music recognizes, clarifies and provokes the spiritual realm – where Heaven meets Earth.

Texas-based independent singer-songwriter Micah Peacock can attest to music’s potent play in our spiritual lives.  As a worship leader at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, a two thousand-member congregation located in the sprawling Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas, every week Micah witnesses the holistic spiritual perspectives music motivates in the day-to-day life of a Christ follower.  “To see people embrace fresh ways of worshiping the Lord and beginning to realize what true worship is,” Micah relates, “and what that kind of encounter with Jesus can mean in our lives, is amazing.”

As stories of fresh spiritual awareness began to surface in his life and the lives of his fellow congregants, Micah started journaling the best way he knew how – by writing songs that birthed his first full-length record, Shadow to Sunlight.

“As I heard the stories in our congregation, and as a new season in my life was unfolding in Dallas, I began to pick up on the glimpses of eternity right in front of us,” he relates with the same manner of thoughtfulness that wisely shapes his songwriting and humble leadership posture.  “Writing about these stories evolved into this album.”

“Truth is not a battlefield for fights among the intellects / It’s Who we’re pointing to and how we’re looking at the rest…” – from “Mystery”

For many songwriters, leading worship is a forum to publicize their original art and help in establishing a professional name among peers in the industry.  For Micah, a history of leading worship for congregations across the country has thoughtfully informed his songwriting craft, causing musical worship of God, and the experience that creates for the church, central to his musical message.

“When I lead worship, I see the light bulbs turn on in people’s minds as we discover what worship can mean in our lives,” he explains of his motivation to connect corporate worship with personal connection to God.  “There seems to be an overarching call to crack the veneer of Christianity and push forward to a more through-and-through commitment.”

“Our culture is full of people who long for deep experiences – within our faith, within our jobs, within our marriages and relationships – but our spiritual eyes have been conditioned to see things as a fraction of what they are meant to be,” Micah opines.  “We have set our sights on building a personal, future empire, instead of opening up our hearts to the possibility that Heaven itself is being built in the stillness of the here and now.”

Influenced by his experience at St. Andrew, Micah began exhuming a deeper definition of worship, directly shaping the lyrical outcome of Shadow to Sunlight.

Beginning with the slow burn of the title track’s awakening anthem, Shadow to Sunlight musically imprints the personal, yet corporate, cry of disciples eager to dive into the deep end of faith.  “When light hits an object, a shadow is cast.  You can’t have one without the other,” he says, explaining the lyrical wherewithal of the record’s initiating track.  “I want to have eyes to see all the glimpses of God and His Kingdom that are infused throughout our day-to-day lives.  I think the Lord is ready to give us a new lens to look through.  We have a choice to participate and dive in.  That may not be comfortable, but I have found it is by far a more rich and dynamic way of living.”

Continuing his musical plight to encourage spiritual consciousness among the saints, the lyrics of “Mystery” follow the track’s musical transition from the verses four-on-the-floor alt-country pulse to the chorus’ half-time backbeat, prompting movement from open-ended questions to openhearted surrender as we chip away at the incomprehensible character of God.  The exercise of surrender is difficult, Micah says.  “We, as the Church, use our blocks of theology to build a framework for our understanding of who God is and even for our encounters with Him.  That’s natural and good.  But sometimes we use these intellectual blocks to erect walls around our hearts that harden us to the truth that our thoughts are not His thoughts, that some things are meant to remain mysteries to be explored and enjoyed, not equations to be solved.

Sadly, I have seen too many examples of folks who don’t have enough room in their hearts, minds and churches for different – albeit still Biblical – interpretations of gray areas of Scripture.”

As Micah waded through the plague of gray in his own life, the vulnerable balladry of “Stop Your Striving” was born.  Gentle acoustics, tender mandolin tremolo and sweeping strings emphasize Micah’s newfound lesson in grace.  “I have always struggled with feeling responsible to right my own wrongs,” Micah confesses.  “But recent seasons of life have proven that God has been the author all along.  I never could have imagined or manufactured the life He’s given me.  That awareness frees me from carrying around a lot of guilt and shame.”

“No promise of tomorrow makes it worth it to borrow from the beauty of today / So blink once, blink twice, uncover my eyes / Bring Your color to the gray… – from “Shadow to Sunlight”

Growing up in a musical household in Friendswood, Texas, a Houston-area bedroom community, melody and verse were fundamental to his foundations of family and faith, where he honed his live chops with his dad – who he had the honor of co-writing “Stop Your Striving” with – in local churches and as a worship leader for peer services in high school.  But it wasn’t until he attended the University of Houston as a music major that music began to cement its place in Micah’s professional life, a young career that has produced a resume of full-time worship positions in Kansas and Texas, three self-released EPs in three years – 2010’s What Surrounds Us, 2011’s Anywhere But Home and 2013’s love song EP, Unnamed Shades, and national road gigs with Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter and Houston dweller, Matt Brouwer – a working relationship that would evolve into a lifelong mentorship bond.

“Matt taught me why we do what we do, “ Micah explains, describing Brouwer’s indelible influence on his musical maturation.  “He taught me to honor every relationship the Lord gives us, no matter how small or insignificant we may be tempted to think it is, and how to take delight in the unexpected ways God chooses to use us.”

One of the practical benefits of Matt’s investment in Micah’s music was an introduction to Grammy Award-winning producer-songwriter-musician extraordinaire Michael Omartian (Rod Stewart, Christopher Cross, Amy Grant).  Impressed by Micah’s overall musicianship, he was happy to oblige his veteran production hat to the creation of Shadow to Sunlight.  “Micah’s lyrics are steeped in prose and poetry,” Omartian reflects, “and transcend the more mainstream worship themes of today’s CCM market, which I find completely refreshing.  The themes are approached so creatively.”

For Micah, the admiration is mutual.  “Though I was familiar with his astounding portfolio, it was such a thrill to see how expansive his creative pallet really is and to see that experience being poured out on this album.  Here’s a guy who has achieved just about everything there is to achieve in music, and he truly counts it all as loss compared to knowing Christ.”

Sonically speaking, Micah says Omartian’s recording prowess, paired with his long-time mixing and engineering partner Terry Christian’s expertise and A-list players, accomplished the musical outline he desired for this journal of songs.  “I wanted the album to sound analog with classic rock band instrumentation, minimal programming elements and limited overdubs,” Micah explains the audio outcome.  “The record is characterized by the fluidity of the live-tracking setting.  You can almost visualize the band playing the record together at a venue.  I’m proud of the dynamic journey each of the songs takes.”

“Not in wind nor shaking / There’s a whisper and it’s waking / Waking me somehow…” – from “Not Over Now”

Song by song, Micah seizes the opportunity to connect spiritual dots through music for his local congregation and burgeoning national audience.  And it’s through this illuminated connection to God that he hopes followers of Christ will be motivated to more lovingly, wisely and carefully connect with their neighbors.

To practice what he preaches, Micah is gifting Shadow to Sunlight with hands and feet beyond his artist platform, with record sales directly benefitting the work of Project Transformation (PT), a Dallas-founded program synergizing three city subcultures – to help low socio-economic children reach their potential, engage college students in the call to ministry, and aiding in the renewal of urban churches.  The program’s initial start has been so successful, city centers across the nation are beginning to implement their own PT model.

“The idea of ‘living into our potential’ – as children, as students, and as churches – resonated with what the record was shaping up to be about,” Micah shares.  “I come from a family of educators, I cut my ministry teeth in college, and am deeply committed to renewing how churches engage the Lord and what He’s doing, so those three areas are close to my heart.

“Worship leading was never something I went looking for,” Micah conclusively admits.  “The Lord opened doors and I followed.  And the more I lead, the more I realize the whole concept of worship is vast and imaginative and dynamic.  Though I feel adequately employed in my gifting when I lead, I am still learning how my own songwriting can serve the Church, and how the Church spurs on my own songwriting.”

Sunday, July 31

“Stories of Service”

FUMC members Jim Byrd and Betty Black, and summer interns Kyle Walden and Kelsie Rogers will each share short but powerful stories of service from their lives.

Sunday, August 7

ss-walker“Story of Self” Rev. Becky Walker

Through her work at First Dallas and in the Conference Office Center for Leadership Development, Rev. Walker will help us to see how we might live into our own stories.

Rev. Becky David Hensley is the Associate Director of the Center for Leadership Development for the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.  She is a native Texan – born in Harlingen – but spent the bulk of her childhood years in the rural community of Bethel Acres, Oklahoma. She holds a Bachelor’s in Religious Education from Oklahoma City University and a Master’s in Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology.  Prior to her current appointment, she has served as Associate Minister of Discipleship at First UMC Dallas, and Associate Minister of Children, Adult, and Missions Ministries at Flower Mound UMC.

As an ordained Deacon in the UMC, Becky has a strong passion for connecting churches with the needs of the world through ministries of compassion and justice, and enjoys the opportunity to work with churches throughout the North Texas Conference (NTC) to develop leaders that transform the world. She has served on the NTC Board of Church and Society since 2012, and currently serves as the staff liaison for the NTC Committee on Religion and Race.

In December 2014, Becky married Rev. Ben David Hensley, Minister of Worship and Discipleship at Oak Lawn UMC. They live in Dallas with their two cats, Neo and Thunderbob, and enjoy Stars hockey games together (because football gets ugly with Ben’s affinity for the Washington Redskins and Becky’s lifelong devotion to her Cowboys).

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