A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Windows broken but spirit ever stronger at Arapaho UMC
Synergy college students put messages of love over panes lost to pellet gun.
Three separate pellet-gun incidents in a span of weeks recently left Arapaho UMC with shattered glass to clean up. Those events, however, did little to deter the church from being a beacon of support for others and further emboldened the spirit that permeates from the walls of the church into the community it serves.
It would take some time to replace the glass, Rev. Blair Thompson-White told her staff, so sheets of plywood now cover the window bays facing Arapaho Road. Rather than leaving the run-of-the-mill boards intact for all to see, members of Synergy Wesley Foundation decorated the coverings with inspirational words and images that reflect the church’s overall reaction to what occurred.
“Our college students took the idea and ran with it, painting messages of hope and love. Now people know us not for the violence that happened to us but for our response to it,” Rev. Thompson-White said.
“That’s the lesson here. Were we anxious about our safety after the shootings? Absolutely we were afraid, but we did not let our fear determine our response. Our belief in the resurrection of Jesus is that love wins. That is the story we are living out of, and that is the story we shared with our community.”
Synergy Wesley Foundation is the newest campus ministry in the North Texas Conference, founded in 2014 with just a few college students. Today the group has more than 50 students involved from the University of Texas at Dallas, Richland College and Collin College, many of whom worship at Arapaho UMC.
Not only does the group’s name have geographic ties – its storefront space is adjacent to UTD off Synergy Park Boulevard – but it also has biblical roots in the organization’s work together with God and one another for good, said Brittany Burrows, Synergy Wesley campus minister and executive director. She said the college students and local churches synergize to do transformative work with the campuses and community.
“We hope those who drive by and see the boards will remember that they are beloved recipients of God’s grace and will share that grace and love with everyone they encounter,” Burrows said.
“We chose to share the message ‘Grace for All’ because it is a phrase often used in the Arapaho UMC congregation and speaks to the grace God offers to the individual who shot the windows and to all of us. We wrote ‘You are Loved’ to remind our community members that nothing can separate them from the love of God.”
Said Timothy Montequin, a UTD sophomore and Wesley student leader: “Whether it’s the messages of hope on the sign outside or the powerful videos Blair creates for the church Facebook page, I have always been so impressed by Arapaho UMC’s steadfast commitment to responding to the problems faced by our community and world.
“When it was said that the person who confessed to the crimes had asked for the congregation’s forgiveness, I knew that we would not only extend our forgiveness, but use this as another vessel to spread a message of love with our neighbors.”