Writing Contest Details Stories Of COVID-19@MyChurch


Stories by Julie Williams (FUMC Richardson) and Mary Shinn (Lake Highlands UMC) were highlights of Commission on Archives and History contest

The Commission on Archives and History of the North Texas Annual Conference announced the results of its conference-wide writing contest that asked the question: “What has this time been like in your local congregation?”

Historians, members and pastors from each NTC district submitted stories of the extraordinary resilience, creativity and faithfulness of the local churches during the pandemic. 

“While each of the entries were excellent and packed with warmth as well as insight, there are two that the Commission has lifted up for special recognition,” commission chair Kent Roberts said.

  • Julie Williams of First UMC Richardson (Metro District) wrote “Ukuleles in a Time of Social Distancing,” which tells the story of the Ukulele Choir created in early 2020 by the church’s choir directors “determined to find ways to continue the church’s music programs.” By Fall 2020, the Ukulele Choir performed “Amazing Grace” for the church and, for Advent, it posted a performance of “Silent Night” on social media. Williams, a member of the choir, said “Life in quarantine has a few perks after all!”
  • Mary Shinn of Lake Highlands UMC (Metro) wrote about finding deep peace through keeping the music ministry alive during the long pandemic shutdown. The Commission noted that her account was heartfelt and personal. Consistent with the optimist and joyful tone of all the essays, Shinn wrote, “Fortunately, for me, I had an extra place to shelter when the lockdown in Dallas began on March 13. While others stayed inside or walked their neighborhoods, I drove to my church 5 out of 7 days, to practice.” During that uncertain time, she said, “The descending dove-stained glass window is right in front of me, and, somehow, that dove provided me with peace and assurance.” She closes with a thought about the day the pandemic is over “and I can play ‘Now Thank We All Our God’ with the crescendo pedal pushed to the max!!”

Other entries recognized for their excellence include:

  • Essays on how local churches in urban, suburban and rural areas were able to maintain community during a time of social distancing.
    • Myrna Ridings of Spring Valley UMC (Metro) describes how the parking lot west of the church became the focus of safe church life.
    • Pat Mays of St. Luke “Community” UMC (Metro) gives a ministry-by-ministry rundown evidencing her thesis, “We love interacting with our church members.”
    • Barbara Bailey of First UMC Whitesboro (Northwest) wrote “A Letter to The Future Generations of the Church” describing the dislocation of months’ long pandemic at this historic Northwest District Church.
    • Commission members Frances Long of First UMC Richardson and Kent Roberts of Highland Park UMC detailed how their large urban congregations in the Metro District adapted enthusiastically to the new realities of church life during the pandemic.
  • Essays on how the local churches in urban, suburban and rural areas were able to expand their reach during the pandemic.
    • Gail Reed and Mary Lou Mowrey of First UMC Mount Vernon (East) described how social media permitted the church to expand its mission to the needy in this rural community and deepen its connection with the elderly of the congregation.
    • Kay Dial of Lovers Lane UMC (Metro) detailed how the gifts and personality of the congregation and its senior pastor, Dr. Stan Copeland, broadened its tradition of outreach.
    • Rev. Peter McNabb of First UMC Terrell (East) and lay person Jan Daniels of First UMC Plano (North Central) provide important insights into the pastor’s perspective on doing church during an unprecedented pandemic lock down.
    • An impactful essay by Norma Terrell on Northaven UMC’s deep commitment to racial justice and innovative use of its striking building as a living statement that Black Lives Matter.
    • The entry of Mary McNich from First UMC Mabank (East) contained original poetry which expressed the hopes of many with its conclusion:

COVID-19 will leave much sorrow in its wake.

We will rejoice to meet in fellowship again.

There will be hugs to give and hands to shake.

And it will be better than it has “always” been.

“In his episcopal address at Annual Conference in September 2020, Bishop Mike McKee told us, ‘In this liminal space, we may have gotten a glimpse of the future. Even during this challenging time, we have stayed in love with God and have done effective and excellent ministry.’” Roberts said. “The submissions in the Commission’s contest provide beautiful evidence of the truth of the Bishop’s message.”

The essays will be available in an e-book after April 1, email to order.

Published: Tuesday, March 16, 2021