TCU Disciples Believe!

Last week was the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Disciples of all ages were gathered in Columbus OH to worship, serve, dream, build community and to be the church in the world together!  We shared our TCU Disciples Believe blog and book (if you would like a copy of the book email believe@tcu.edu).  We also gained more contributions to our This I Believe at TCU photo project!  Check out the pictures here.  If you see someone you know, share this picture with them!

Remember….beliefs matter!

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I Believe in Gratitude, by Rev. Angela Kaufman

I am one of those people….the person with the “life is good” sticker on the back of her car, the one who’s coffee mug says “half full” and who’s currently wearing a shirt that says “happy camper”. I’m the one who sings the “rise and shine “ song from church camp first thing in the morning – much to the chagrin of my wonderful not-so-morning person husband and my half-asleep kids. I’m the person who in our house reminds us before meals to offer up one thing we’re thankful for from the day, and the one who even on my crankiest, most exasperated, most frustrating days finds myself most days hitting my “reboot button”.  I’m like this on the outside because on the inside I believe in gratitude.  I believe in gratitude not because life is always easy or good, but rather because in fact life is often difficult, hard, and even exhausting….and yet is beautiful nonetheless.

This belief was made very real to me at a young age as I grew up with both the “beautiful and the messiness of life” in my own house. One on hand, I was the product of one hard-working, steadfast parent who taught me by example the virtues of commitment and responsibility, faith and friendship. My dad taught me how to fix my own car and just about anything else, how to value a life of learning and appreciate a good book, and most importantly what it meant to live a life committed to God and to the church. But the other side of the coin was very different, and through the anger and volatility of my mom I gained a different set of life-skills.  I learned as a youth how to quietly sneak out the house at night to find peace, how to make friends with people who had spare couches and how to navigate the landmines of an unstable parent. I learned like many others do, how to talk around public conversations that would reveal that I lived with someone whose illness robbed her of her mind and whose anger shut the door to her heart. And while it’s made for a difficult story in certain chapters, that rocky path taught me that life can be just as beautiful in the valley as in the mountains. It showed me how to give thanks on the days when it rains as well as those when the sun shines.

One of my favorite bloggers once said, “a crisis shakes things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most.” For me, what’s left when the crisis, the loss or the grief of our lives has taken hold and shook everything else off? Gratitude. Gratitude for a God who loves us as beautiful and worthy people filled with promise. Gratitude for family and friends who help us live life with humor, love, grace and second chances. Gratitude for the chance to start each morning anew.  I believe in gratitude, and that deep, authentic, sincere gratitude is the product of an imperfect, messy, and beautiful life. It’s birthed out of hope and from it comes joy, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a mobilizer. It calls us not just to sit still and admire the view, but to realize that with every new morning comes the responsibility to care for others, to serve a world in need and give thanks to a God who loves us and reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And with that in mind, nothing can keep me from singing, even if it is early in the morning.

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angela-kaufmanRev. Angela Kaufman serves as the Minister to the University and more recently also as the University’s Church Relations Officer, supporting connections between the church and the campus. She received her bachelors from TCU and her Masters of Divinity from the University of Chicago. Angie has been or is currently active on the boards of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, National Assoc. of College & University Chaplains, University of Chicago Disciples Divinity House, the TCU Wesley Foundation and the General Board for the church.  She is the lucky other-half to her wonderful partner in crime and IT genius Jack and co-parent to two amazing, adventurous boys and a husky-shepherd mix named Bailey.

I Believe in Music, by Rev. Chris Stillwell

I believe in music. Of course I don’t simply mean that I believe music exists, rather I believe that the existence of music is the greatest gift we have in this world. While the stomach needs food and the lungs need air, the heart and soul need music above all else. I believe that the reason that the caged bird sings is because that is the only time when it is free, and when I sing, my spirit is free to soar to places that my body can never know. I believe that when I listen to music, I am transported and moved and when I play music I feel a holy communion.  The true gift of music is that I don’t have to be gifted in music to receive music’s gift.

A person who cannot paint can appreciate a masterpiece, and someone with no athletic skill can marvel at an athlete, but even someone who sings like I do can not only like music but actually and actively participate in it. This I have believed from a very young age when I learned to play my Walk-man. I sang along to every note of every cassette I owned blissfully unaware that when I sang, I sang loudly and poorly. It didn’t matter. The ability to sing united me with the song, its structure and movement, its meaning and feeling. It lifted my spirit and exercised my soul.

Even more amazing is experiencing music together. At a U2 concert surrounded by 60,000 people, most of whom I imagine sang as poorly as I do, we all united in singing the words of the 40th Psalm. “I will sing, sing a new song,” and together we sounded much better than we ever would have sounded alone. The transcendence of that moment was a striking lesson, and ever since then music has been my daily devotional.

I believe in music to inspire and uplift, to sooth and comfort, to release and build emotion. But more than anything, I believe music is the greatest gift because it is the most enduring gift. As a minister, I have often I gone into nursing homes to see people who have lived long lives full of loved ones and events that they can no longer remember. I have set with people who cannot remember my name or why I am there, but sing or play a few notes of an old cherished song, and they remember.  I won’t say it comes back to them because it never left them, and in that way I believe that music is our surest sign of God’s steadfast presence in this world.

I believe, I know, that when the day comes and I am in their place whatever else I have lost, music will still be with me. My hope is that anyone who visits me in the nursing home will know the first line to “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I believe that I will be able to take it from there.

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stillwellRev. Chris Stillwell is from Wheeling, WV and now lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Jessica, and his children, Owen and Charlotte.. He attended TCU from 1999-2002 where we earned his Master of Divinity degree from the Brite Divinity School. He is a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where he has served as the senior minister of the Christian Church of Connellsville for the past twelve years.

I Believe in Something, by Hannah Canterbury

I believe in something and I am not quite sure how to put that something into words, to fully encompass what that something is but throughout my life and especially in this past semester of college, I have been challenged on many occasions to define and verbalize what I believe. I have been asked what values and ethics I hold true and how they will influence my future career and life. The majority of the time the questions do not end there. I am asked to dive deeper into where I gained those beliefs, how I choose them and probably the biggest question, why do i believe in this something?

These questions and conversations are challenging but so important. Through these conversations not only am I, the individual challenged to look deeper into myself but I am asked to respect and ask questions of others beliefs; that is not always the most comfortable thing to do. I don’t want to say the wrong thing or end up with a question I can’t answer. But as I have been continually faced with these conversations I have thought more about the purpose of believing in something.

I believe in something, I believe in something because something gives my life meaning, it gives my life purpose and gives me a daily drive to strive for my goals and aspirations.

Everyone believes in something, whether it is rubbing a horned frogs nose for some extra luck on a test or belief in a religion or faith that dates back thousand of years. Those beliefs give an individual what they need in their life, and in a specific moment.

Knowing this has provided me with great comfort and allowed me to respect others beliefs despite how foreign they may seem to me. I think it is still vital to ask questions of ourselves and our beliefs and start conversations with others about our own and theirs, building those conversations on the foundation that everyone believes in something. I may not have all the answers to why I believe that something, I may be stumped and challenged when faced with deeper questions but those questions have allowed my beliefs to strengthen and transform.

I believe in something, and that something guides my heart and my mind to do what I feel is best and the understanding of “something” allows me to respect and appreciate others.

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Canterbury, HannahHannah Canterbury is a senior social work major and religion minor. She is currently the President of Disciples on Campus and is actively involved with the religious and spiritual life office of TCU. She is also the Social Justice chair for the Student of Social Work Association. After her senior year she hopes to attend graduate school for social work and pursue a career in mental health.

I Believe in Honoring Those Who Stand For What is Right, by Jennifer Carr

As a girl, my father, a former football player, would tell stories of the glory days of Southwest Conference football from the early 1950’s in Texas.  Dad would get a far away look in his eye and speak of an era that is gone by.  It has taken me the past 40 years to understand why he was so nostalgic.

There was one tale that made an indelible impression on me.  To me it seemed to celebrate honor and integrity, and was proof that the Team, the Coach, and the University held those same ideals.  It was about TCU.

In October of 1954, TCU played the University of Oklahoma in a game that the Horned Frogs were not supposed to have any chance of winning.  A Brite Divinity student named Johnny Crouch was Captain of the TCU team, and had been selected the 1952 – 54 All-Time Letterman.

The TCU boys took an overnight train to Norman, Oklahoma sleeping on the train so the Athletic Department would not have to pay for a hotel.   Arriving the next morning at a railroad track siding across from the field house, they had to haul their gear to the stadium.

According to the Quarterback of the TCU team, Chuck Curtis, “We held the lead until the end of the game, and then late in the 4th quarter I threw a pass to Johnny Crouch in the end zone that would have given the Frogs a victory.”  A touchdown was signaled and the points were put onto the scoreboard, however Johnny went to the referee and said “Sir, I did not catch that ball, it hit the ground first.”

Astonished at the young players’ honesty, the official went to the sidelines and approached Coach Abe Martin.  “Coach Martin, your team captain says he didn’t catch it.  I’ve already signaled, what should we do?” Without hesitation, Martin was said to have replied, “If Johnny Crouch says he didn’t catch it, then he didn’t catch it.”

The points were removed from the scoreboard, and Oklahoma went on to win the game 21-16.

The following week Sports Illustrated wrote, “The most genuinely amazing development in college sports this week prevented rather than instituted an upset.”

With football championships worth their weight in gold, it would be difficult to turn away from a big victory for any collegiate team.  It might even mean a dismissal for any coach who allowed that to occur.  Abe Martin wasn’t just any coach.  Martin was known to be a fatherly figure whose players adored him, they lived and died to win for him, knowing that he stood for doing the right thing, no matter the cost.

It says something about the climate at TCU that Johnny Crouch wasn’t criticized for his simple act of honesty; instead he was awarded a great honor as the Most Valuable Player of the Year and given the 1954 Rogers Trophy for his outstanding leadership and athleticism.

I believe that we at TCU continue to honor those who stand for the right, the good, and the best in humanity.  It is a legacy that lives throughout this campus and this University, and it is what makes me proud to be a small part of what happens here.

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GA TIB BOOK Jennifer Carr

Jennifer Carr is a vocal instructor at TCU’s School of Music.  She received her Masters degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she studied Voice with Susan Clickner. She was a fellowship recipient to the Aspen Music Festival, performing with the Aspen Choral Institute and Aspen Opera Theater. While living in New York City, Jennifer sang with the Opera Orchestra of New York in Carnegie Hall, New York Choral Artists, Regina Opera Theater, NY Gilbert & Sullivan Players, and the New York Opera Forum. Ms. Carr made her Lincoln Center debut under the direction of Zubin Mehta with the NY Philharmonic Orchestra. Ms. Carr is an active singer, vocal coach, accompanist, and choral director. She resides in Fort Worth, TX.

I Believe in Ordained Ministers, by Rev. Jill Sullins

You there.  Yes, you.  I know that look in your eyes.  The wondering if what you’ll say on Sunday will make a difference.  I know that fatigue and I know that….”this text again?  There can’t be anything more I can say about this.”  I know the energy it takes to create something new from something old and listen to the same tired argument for months on end.  I know that feeling of uncertainty and if your leadership is absolutely taking your church to where it needs to go.  Yes, You.  I know you.  And I believe in you.

I believe in ordained ministers who tirelessly seek ways of preaching in order to speak justice in a way that is kind, but challenging.  I believe in ordained ministers who take that call in the middle of the night even though every bone in their body says to ignore the call.  I believe in ordained ministers who carefully let their best selves be invaded by the Holy of Holies.  I believe in ordained ministers who speak truth into a world when everything seems uncertain.  I believe in ordained ministers.   I believe that the words you say do matter and do make a difference.  I believe that taking that call has shown someone a love beyond boundaries and limits, a love that mimics the Christ on the mountaintop who came away from his prayer in order to heal and to listen.  I believe that what you do speaks to justice even if it felt like a watered down point of view.  I believe that who you are is exactly why God called you to ministry.

I believe in ordained ministers.  I believe you are God’s gift to the Church and that gift is opened every day with new exciting opportunities to be who you are and exactly how God made you.  I believe you are called.  I have watched you reach into the depths of your hearts in order to make strong decisions for your congregations.  I have watched you open your eyes to the pain in your neighborhoods and empower your congregations to heal that pain.  I believe in your call even when you do not.  I believe your call has led you at times into depression, and at times into amazing joy.  I believe in ordained ministers because I have followed your examples of love and life.  I have followed your footsteps in maintaining your integrity while walking the tightrope of peace.

I believe in ordained ministers because of the strength you’ve shown in faith.  Your passion to share the Good News and to do it at all costs.  I believe in ordained ministers because when hands were laid on you, you did not run, but instead you cried knowing that God saw you for who you are and designed your life to do important, sacred things.  I believe in ordained ministers because of the numerous camps you’ve counseled and directed empowering youth and children to seek a greater faith.  I believe in ordained ministers because of the ways you’ve served regions and greater Church.  I believe in ordained ministers because you reach beyond the tradition and found a whole new world opening up in which God is doing great things.  I believe in ordained ministers because you’ve been my friends, you’ve been my mentors, and you’ve been a challenging voice when the road has become too rough.

I believe in ordained ministers because I’ve watched you love recklessly, extended grace boundlessly, and healed the brokenness around you.

So YOU…..I believe in you.  God believes in you.  The Church believes in you.  You are loved, there is hope, and I believe in you because you are exactly you.

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GA TIB BOOK Jill SullinsRev. Jill Sullins serves as senior minister at South Summit Christian Church.  She joined South Summit CC on December 1, 2013 with her husband, Eric and daughter, Maddie.  She previously served congregations in San Marcos, Texas, Independence, Missouri, Fort Worth, Texas and Grand Prairie, Texas. She earned her bachelors’ degree in Religious Studies and a minor in music at Texas Christian University and her Master of Divinity degree at Brite Divinity School. Jill finds God in lots of everyday things. She spends her free time playing volleyball, punching numbers on a remote control, conquering the world of tutu making and other nonsense crafts, cooking, and of course being a mom and a wife.

I Believe in My Sister’s Jesus, by Rev. Ryan Motter

Just one year before “The Facebook” came to TCU, many students used an online service called “Xanga,” (pronounced Zayn-gah with an inflection of irony and a hint of regret).  Xanga was an “open journal” blogging site, a place where millennial angst could spill out for all to see.  As a Freshman living in Clark Hall, I used Xanga for two reasons: first, so that my mom and sister could have print evidence that I was still alive and, second, so that I did not have to confront social anxiety and make new friends.

Xanga became the space where new ideas related to my major, Religion, played out.  Just a month into school, I wrote: “How do we know that we’re Christian?”  Mid-semester, the words were different:  “What if God is fallible?”  Then, at the start of my second semester, it was just flat out: “I don’t believe in Jesus.  Got no issues with God.  Just Jesus.”

That last one sent my sister, Kate, into a tailspin.  She lashed back with comments about how she didn’t know me and that Jesus believed in me even if I didn’t believe in him.  Back home, the church that I had grown up in, the same one in which Kate was still growing, had descended into terrible conflict.  What had been a source of faithful strength in my youth became, in Kate’s youth, a place where followers of Jesus acted as embittered hypocrites.  For her brother to move from “church camp all-star” to “deserter of the faith,” was betrayal to Kate.  When I stopped attending church at the end of my first semester, that betrayal became real to both of us.

After that, my sister and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on much about Jesus.  As our home church disintegrated, Kate became involved in Young Life.  The Jesus she came to know became vastly different than the Jesus, historical, theological and ethical, that I was coming to know through my coursework.

Slowly, Jesus and I found each other again, for the first time.  In my Junior year, I returned to a church because there was a hole in my heart that nothing else could fill.  I heard sermons from a minister who used both her bible and her brain, and she helped me to know an intimately personal Jesus who had intellectual integrity.  I sang in a church choir that was forgiving of my angst and gentle with my spirit.  My coursework in Religion encouraged me to be less critical and more generous, both to the material and myself.

In the summer after graduating from TCU, Jesus brought Kate and me back together.  She and I began to talk about this man who we had come to know separately.  She practiced the hospitality of Jesus that her Young Life groups instilled in her, and I found the vulnerability of Jesus I’d learned through doubt and grace.

Together we discovered that we believed in each other’s Jesus.  We still do.

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GA TIB BOOK Ryan MotterRev. Ryan Motter, ’07, is a minister at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Smithville, Missouri.  After his time at TCU, Ryan earned his Master of Divinity degree at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and was ordained to Christian Ministry.  He and his wife Rev. Suzanne Kerr Motter, ’00, MDIV ‘04, are expecting their first child, a baby girl, in November.  They can’t wait for her to meet their fur child Jeff, a female Yellow Lab Mix named in honor of two of Ryan’s TCU roommates. 

I Believe in Youth Ministry, by Rev. Aaron Todd

When I was preparing to graduate from Brite Divinity School during the Summer of 2009 I found myself sensing a nudging to explore other areas of congregational ministry outside of the field of Youth Ministry.  This was a scary proposition as I was, at the time, serving an amazing congregation with an even-more-amazing youth group.  But as my time at Brite was coming to a close, I began to sense that it was time to “spread my wings” and go on to other “bigger” things.

Five years later, after two stints as a senior pastor, I made the decision to return to my “roots” and re-engage the crazy, holy madness that is Youth Ministry.  For myself, for my spirit, for my ministry, and for God’s Kingdom, this was the best decision I have ever made.  Youth Ministry is what I am called to do, and for me there is no more sacred work than to journey alongside teenagers during those crazy, unpredictable, beautiful years of middle school and high school.

This is where I belong.  And the truth is, of course, that I have always known this to be true.

My initial call to ministry came while on a mission trip during my junior year of high school.  It was a call that was reaffirmed while serving as a counselor during a week of church camp.

The most holy communion experience I have ever participated in occurred on the floor at 7:00am with elements of orange juice and glazed donuts.

The most in depth theological discussions I have ever witnessed have sprung out of seemingly innocuous comments uttered during youth group gatherings.

I believe in Youth Ministry.  I believe in late nights and early mornings.  I believe in silliness and play. I believe in laughter and spontaneity. I believe in that a trip to the coffee shop can yield the same holiness as a trip to the monastery. I believe in messy rooms.  I believe in intentional prayer.   I believe in the sacred art of holy listening. I believe in silence.  I believe in creating.  I believe in teaching and in learning. I believe in sacred community. I believe in relationships.

When I say I believe in Youth Ministry what I am saying is that I believe in the youth of our churches and our communities.  I believe that our youth are not only capable of leading the Church, but they are capable to transforming the world (and are, in fact, already doing both these things).  However, our young people will only live into the fullness of who they were created to be if they are made a priority by the Church and it’s leadership. The boundless potential that abides within the souls of the youth whom I am blessed to serve is what helps to stir my spirit and what drives me forward in ministry.

My Youth inspire me to be a better pastor, Christian, and human being and for the gift of being permitted to journey alongside them I will be forever grateful.

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GA TIB BOOK Aaron ToddRev. Aaron Todd serves as the Minister for Education at First Christian Church-Midwest City, OK . He is married to Debra, who is also a Disciples pastor, and together they have a 3 year old son named Zach and a precious baby boy named Josh. In addition to their human children, they have a 5 year old dog named Amos (named after the prophet).

I Believe in the Church, by Rev. David Mallory

With a trumpet of shock in her voice, the young woman said to me, “these people don’t even know me and yet they are constantly asking what they can do to help.” Her and her husband had been casually visiting the congregation for several months when he was severely injured in a boating accident. Members of the church had been showering them with food, cards, companionship, prayers and love. She was dumbfounded by the response.

Over the last number of decades, a great deal of criticism has been pointed at the church for being archaic and out-of-touch. Much of this is deserved. However, even with her many shortcomings, I still believe in the church.

Human beings are created as social creatures. Particularly in times of hardship and struggle, we cope most effectively when we are rooted in safe and meaningful relationships. Yet there are so few arenas in which these healthy relationships can be nurtured. Schools are often fractured  by bullying and social ladders. Corporate America is more concerned with profits than with people. Even local neighborhoods are often fenced by mistrust. In a world in which rampant individualism and crippling isolation are commonplace, the church is a sanctuary where all of God’s creatures can gather at the same table. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free. The leopard can lie with the goat and the cow can feed with the bear. With all of her faults and failures, the church is still one of the few venues in which our commonness as the beloved children of God is celebrated. For this reason, I believe in the church.

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GA TIB BOOK David MalloryDavid Mallory is the Senior Minister of Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to that, he was the Senior Minister at the First Christian Church of Albany, Texas. A second career minister, he graduated from Brite Divinity School in 2000. He is the husband of Amy, father of Robert and Stacey and soon to be a granddad. Wow, he’s old!

I Believe in the Church, by Rev. Allison Lanza

Dear Church,

I was watching you this weekend. It was early on a Saturday morning. 20 of you were holding hands in a circle in that old fellowship hall.  I noticed how diverse you were.  In that circle some of you were children, some young adults, some weathered and wise from many years on this planet.  Some of you were black and some white. Some had large houses, some 1 room apartments, and some of you had nowhere to call home.  Some of you have been going to church since you were babies and others walked into this strange community just a few months ago. In that circle you were CEO’s, janitors, marathon runners, chemo patients, addicts, granddads and moms.  I saw how different you were, but I don’t think you noticed the differences.  I could see in the way you treated each other that you saw the other faces around the circle just as fellow church members, as equal, beloved children of God.  Standing there you prayed that God’s love might be known through bread and smiles.  Then you went outside.  You spent the morning giving out free fresh produce to your neighbors.  When folks asked if they qualified for food, you told them, “yes, this is for everyone!”  When they asked how much food they could take, you said, “as much as you want, take some for your friends and neighbors too.”

Church, this weekend, I saw you at your best.  You were following in Jesus’ footsteps as you gave food to the hungry and loved your neighbors as yourself, no questions asked.  You trusted in God’s abundance and generosity instead of trusting in your own fear that there might not be enough.  It was beautiful.

A lot of folks are losing faith in you church.  I see where they are coming from.  Too often you have chosen shame instead of grace.  You have closed your doors and told some members of the body of Christ that they are not welcome because of who they love, or because they ask questions, or because they do not believe exactly the same way that you do. You have tried too hard to be cool and powerful and in doing so you have sometimes left Jesus and his teachings behind. You have gotten stuck in your ways, unwilling to change.

In spite of this, I still believe in you.  I don’t believe this is who you really are.  I just think this is what you act like when you are afraid.  You are better than this.  Church, I believe in you because I have seen you when you are at your very best.

I have seen you baptize a child and promise to raise them in God’s love, and then I have watched you follow through.  I have seen you bring casseroles to a devastated family and read psalms beside the hospital bed.  I have seen you show up when the tornado hits and stay long after the news cameras have left.  I have watched you help teenagers hear God’s still, small voice and I have seen you whisper to the outcast, “you are God’s beloved child and you are welcome here.”

I have heard your prophetic voice crying for justice, your hymns sung out in praise and your quiet prayers whispered into the silence.  I have watched as you fed the hungry, visited the imprisoned, healed the sick, and let the oppressed go free.  I watched you knock down the walls that divide us and invite us into one community as sisters and brothers in God.  When the world says, be afraid, I have heard you whisper, love.  I have seen you proclaim that love has overcome hate, life has overcome death, and that hope will have the final say. I have watched you live as if you really believe, in spite of the evidence otherwise, that this might be true.

I believe in you church.

I believe in you because you raised me.  I have seen you come alive.

So, let go of your fear.  Be God’s church in this world again.

We need you.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

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GA TIB BOOK Allison LanzaRev. Allison Lanza serves as an Associate Chaplain at TCU.  Prior to this she served at Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh NC.  She graduated from Trinity University and Vanderbilt Divinity School.  She is a part of Ridglea Christian Church in Fort Worth.  The daughter of a TCU professor, she has been a horned frog since birth!