Good News Stories!
Amidst the changes and chances of the COVID-19 pandemic, churches and entities throughout the Synod of the Sun have found ways to not only survive but also employ unique and beautiful ways to minister to God's people in need. In these settings, mission and ministry happens in a myriad of ways, from supplying basic necessities to caring for the environment. Connections have been made via video feed and blankets. Love is supplied from teaching inmates how to read to providing diapers via a drive-thru.

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Canyon Creek Church, Richardson, TX
Picturing Love in a Pandemic
by Matt Curry
RICHARDSON, Texas – For many of us, 2020 came with far too many surprises.
Yet for a North Texas church, one last eye-opening experience – captured in a photograph – shows how partnerships with the community can forge lasting bonds that overcome evil with good.

In this case, a picture is worth a thousand “Amens.”

The photo shows staff of Canyon Creek Presbyterian Church, which is part of Grace Presbytery, alongside representatives of the neighboring East Plano Islamic Center. The members of EPIC showed up while the staff was filming worship in the sanctuary during the last weekend before the presidential election. They brought flowers and a card, which read:

“Dear Canyon Creek Church Community,
We would to reach out to you in empathy, love and compassion at a time of turmoil and division. We believe that the life of every individual is sacred and our communities can only flourish with mutual respect and appreciation for one another. We are in this together.
The East Plano Islamic Center.”
This year, the “Good News” series has highlighted the creative ways in which ministries in the Synod of the Sun have reached out to their congregations and communities. This story is about a mosque reaching out to a Presbyterian church in appreciation for a relationship that has developed over several years, praising what they have in common rather than lamenting what separates them. The joyful photo that captured the moment brought smiles to faces within the Canyon Creek community, who received it through the church’s internal communications.
“Interfaith at its best!” said member Melinda Hunt.

The moment did not happen out of thin air. It is a culmination of collaboration between leaders of EPIC and Canyon Creek, whose mission statement reads: “We believe our world is in desperate need of a church that makes relationships and reconciliation not just a priority, but a way of life.”

The friendship began with the breaking of bread.

“Early in my time as the pastor of Canyon Creek, Imam Nadim Bashir and I met for lunch, beginning a relationship between Canyon Creek and EPIC,” said the Rev. Andy Odom. “Since then, God has continued to be present as we learn not just about what our differences are, but what makes us alike. It is a privilege to have them as neighbors.”

The two congregations have had opportunities to learn about each religion’s practices and beliefs. Odom and Megan Flores, the church’s director of mission and outreach, attended an Eid dinner, which ends the monthlong fast of
Ramadan. Members of the church and Islamic Center, along with a Jewish group, took part in an interfaith book study. On another occasion, Muslim children got to experience American Easter traditions, such as hunting eggs. And the two faith communities have organized donations for a food pantry.

“More and more, our world is becoming less able culturally, politically and religiously to relate to one another,” Flores said. “In order to be the body of Christ, we can’t live side by side without starting to invest in each other.”

For the church, and for the world that God so loves, the building of relationships amid increasing challenges offer hope for a new year.
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The Rev. Matt Curry writes about Good News from ministries throughout the Synod of the Sun.