Stoking The Flames Of Good In Our Community

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Rev. Katie Newsome, the executive director and lead pastor at Union, shares how Union became a missional congregation of The United Methodist Church.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the science behind a spark. It all begins with friction – the resistance that is created when two objects meet. That friction creates a spark, and if you feed that spark with oxygen you get fire. In the right environment, a spark can change the world. A spark is a little piece of energy, just waiting to do its job.

We talk a lot about the divine spark here at Union. Our mission is “to cultivate the divine spark in our neighbors for the good of Dallas and the world it inspires." We also talk a lot about this one sermon that John Wesley preached in the 1700s. Wesley preached about how God was present in all things, and then he said, “What shall we make of this awful consideration? But should we not labor continually to acknowledge God’s presence?”

Katie NewsomeAnd, friends, that’s exactly what we are up to at Union. This friction that resists as what some consider “secular” and what some consider “sacred” mix and blend in wonderful ways to create new things. Things that bring life to the world. It’s also a place where people that don’t quite fit in other places find a place to call home. Where all sorts of people meet and can find connection.

The places where that friction exists? Those are the places where we belong. Those are the places in which Union thrives best.

Union looks for those places where little sparks appear and fans into flames. We create sanctuary for people who have been wounded by the church in our worshipping communities. We create opportunities for people to tell their stories through our storytelling stage we call The Naked Stage, because we ask people to come with no notes and offer their story in a bravely vulnerable way. We create quality coffee that is sustainable, coming from coffee farmers that are paid 2-3 times the fair-trade value.

We take the time to cultivate and develop leaders and apostles of people mostly in their 20s and 30s that take the things they learned at Union and share them with the world. We develop generous practices of offering part of our profits to other nonprofits that do good work in Dallas. We exist as a laboratory for the church, trying all the new things, daring to fail and then sharing what we’ve learned with all who want to hear. It is because of Union that I will forever remain convinced that a cup of coffee can genuinely change the world.

And now, The United Methodist Church has officially and formally constituted Union as a missional congregation – saying that this place and the innovative work we do is vital and needed in our world. Saying that those who have found home at Union are now given full voice in a denomination that deserves and needs to hear it. The place where so many things blend in often odd and unusual ways is a place that the UMC sees God at work.

And I see it too.

One of our longtime community members, Hannah Cauley, says it best:

“I know a place

that holds space for all who walk through its doors,

that listens to your story with its whole heart,

that speaks truth to power,

that curses a little bit more than my mom is comfortable with,

that believes vulnerability is brave and authenticity is an absolute,

that provides sanctuary to those who need it most,

that finds truth in the words of Brandi Carlile, Muna & Bastille,

that has a lot of questions and knows that's ok,

that I call home.”

I’ve had the privilege of being a part of this community for the past eight years, and I have seen this good work up close. I’m so proud to see Union officially become a missional congregation, and I can’t wait for the next chapter that we will write together.

Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2021