The DMN’s Sam Hodges posted this on the Religion blog about the United Methodist denomination’s "Rethink Church" initiative, the goal of which is to "help the church see itself as, ‘… not just a place we go, but something we do.’" Accordingly, the denomination has launched a campaign "designed to get members outside the church doors to connect with the community," and the North Texas Conference chose Oak Cliff UMC as the place to showcase the initiative and launch the campaign this Wednesday, May 6 because "it is known as a church that has successfully opened its doors to the surrounding community, embracing the change in neighborhood dynamics and remaining a vital force in Dallas city life."
You may remember from November’s cover story that Oak Cliff UMC is a more than 120-year-old church that at one time averaged 2,500 in attendance on Sunday morning, but almost closed its doors a few years ago, until the 50 or so remaining members changed their focus and became a community with "a real heart for mission," says the church’s pastor, Rev. Diane Presley. Much of that change involved getting outide of its historical walls and meeting needs in the surrounding community.
One of those efforts involved Turner Plaza across Jefferson Boulevard from the church; more on that story and the details of Wednesday’s event after the jump:
The plan to landscape Turner Plaza Park came along in 2007 when Oak Cliff UMC barely had enough money to keep its own doors open, let along do anything financially outside its walls. "The son of one of our eldest members said to me, ‘You know I think this church ought to do something for the community for its [120th] anniversary," Presley says. "I thought, ‘Get real — how are we supposed to do something for the community?’"
But between support from the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, which owns the land, and thousands of dollars from places like Methodist Hospital and the Tornado Bus Company next door to the church, the Oak Cliff UMC folks were able to landscape the entire park the Saturday before its anniversary celebration in September. So it’s only fitting that Turner Plaza will be center of all the activity on Wednesday, starting at 3:30 p.m., "with opportunities for celebration and fellowship for all ages." Attendees also will be able to tour some of the homes repaired during the past couple of Saturdays’ Amigos Days, an outreach program Presley started before she became the pastor at Oak Cliff UMC, and in which dozens of North Texas United Methodist Churches now participate annually.
It will be one of the last major events Presley oversees as Oak Cliff UMC’s pastor; starting July 1, the conference has appointed her to Trietsch Memorial UMC in Flower Mound. "So this will be a very meaningful recap of much of what we have done at the church for the past seven years," she says.