Last night I watched the reports on the tornadoes that ripped through the Granbury-Cleburne area. I could not help but remember the devastation caused to St. Barnabas and Arlington a little over a year ago. Like so many, I took time to pray for those in the path of the storm. This morning I gave thanks for the courageous first responders and the early responders that are on the scene. Rev. Robert Herzig, Senior Pastor of First UMC, Cleburne, shared with me that his neighborhood was devastated and that they had lost the roof on the parsonage. Yet even in the disaster their church along with so many others was reaching out to help people in need. He asked for prayers, especially for those who lost their whole homes. In the midst of tragedies such tornados and explosions, the greatness of the connection of the United Methodist Church comes home with hope and help. This morning in my email I received the following message from Gregory A. Forrester, Assistant General Secretary for the General Board of Global Ministries division of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR): “Dear Bishop Lowry, We have been monitoring the report of the devastation that has occurred in Texas this evening. I have been in touch with Rev. Laraine Waughtal and have offered UMCOR’s assistance. Please let us know how we can help serve the Central Texas Conference as you respond to this disaster.” Just as in West, Texas and in Arlington a year earlier, we are in this together, reaching out with love and help in the name of the Lord. In less than a month, we will gather for the annual meeting of the Central Texas Conference in Fort Worth at Arborlawn UMC. The decision to return Annual Conference to the local church setting was based not on convenience or cost but rather conviction. Somehow in a church setting - gathered in a sanctuary - we think, pray and behave differently. It is easier to remember who and whose we are and what we are about: “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The connection we share is a gift from God. The Conference is an extension of our mission. It is the basic unit of Methodism that undergirds every local church. As someone has said, “we come together to be together what Christ has been for us.” Christ alone does the saving but together we reach out in missional love with the good news of His salvation in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is greatness in Connection and Conference!