Thursday, October 29, 2015

Please Don't Rain on Our Prade

By Rodger Dean Duncan

Baylor's first homecoming parade, 1909.
Homecoming Weekend is one of the year's biggest events at Baylor University. In fact, Baylor claims to have been in the homecoming business longer than any other university ... more than 100 years.

Baylor's first homecoming in 1909 was a pretty big deal even by today's standards. It was nearly 40 blocks long. The colorful extravaganza featured bands, horse-drawn carriages and wagons, student and civic organizations, and a stream of dignitaries. That first homecoming parade was led by a towering drum major who, it was reported, was "six feet six in his stocking feet and without his bearskin cap."

Baylor Homecoming's Pigskin Revue, 2015.
Unfortunately, the weather put a serious damper on this year's festivities. As Hurricane Patricia roared across Texas, the Waco area was slammed with torrential rain and thunderstorms. Due to the danger of lightning, Saturday morning's big parade was cancelled. This was a big disappointment for many thousands of alumni who had converged on Waco for homecoming weekend. But the cancellation may have been even more disappointing to the student groups who had invested weeks of work and reportedly up to $15,000 on each of the parade floats they had prepared to showcase.

But there was plenty of opportunity for indoor fun. Rean and I attended Pigskin Revue. This is the annual homecoming tradition showcasing the winning acts from the previous spring's All University Sing competition. The performances are musical, Broadway-style acts prepared and performed by campus organizations, complete with costumes, elaborate backdrops and props, and complex choreography.

My date for Baylor Homecoming weekend. And forever.
When I was a Baylor student I participated in All University Sing. My group did a take-off on the heartwarming Fiddler on the Roof, which had just opened on Broadway. It was a lot of work, but fun. The campus performances in those days had a sort of Doris Day or Julie Andrews quality. Some of the 2015 acts, especially the dance moves (even by performers dressed as nuns), are more reminiscent of Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga. I miss Doris and Julie.

Although we won't be in Waco as full-time missionaries, we will likely come for Baylor Homecoming next year. 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of my graduation.

Search and Rescue

When the Waco Stake first established a Young Single Adult Branch 13 months ago, the move was met with much excitement by single Church members in the age 18-31 range. For the first time ever in the Waco area, they would have their own congregation with a focus on activities especially suited to their interests.

Elder Max Murdock (center), tutors YSA Branch President David Hodson
and Branch Clerk Tom Morley on creative uses of membership databases.
Seasoned priesthood leaders were called to the branch presidency. Then members of the YSA congregation were given the opportunity to serve in Relief Society and priesthood callings that most of them had never before had. 

Service, it's been said, is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. YSA members are stepping up to the calls to serve, and missionary work is going very well in the branch. But there's still plenty of opportunity for outreach to single stake members who could be attending the branch.

Elder Murdock demonstrates how to reconfigure membership
records to produce helpful color-coded reports that facilitate
finding and activation work. 
Today in the Waco Stake there are about 650 members who fall into the 18-31 age range. Only about 25% have chosen to attend the YSA Branch. The others fall into four categories: (1) those who simply prefer to attend a traditional family ward, (2) those who are temporarily out of the area serving missions, serving in the military, or attending school, (3) those who have chosen to be inactive, and (4) those who are otherwise unaccounted for because they no longer live in the Waco Stake but did not leave forwarding addresses.

The goal is first to account for all members on the records, then to ensure that those who wish to be active are given every opportunity to participate fully. You might call the effort Search and Rescue. 

Getting the records "cleaned up" is not just a matter of administrative neatness, although there's much to be said for that. It's primarily about ensuring that Church members are afforded the appropriate "customer service" associated with their membership.

To help the YSA Branch leaders with this, Rean and I enlisted the help of Elder Max Murdock. Max and his wife Shirley are from our home stake in Independence Missouri. They, too, serve as full-time missionaries in the Texas Fort Worth Mission. They are assigned to work with single adult wards in Arlington and Denton, about two hours north of Waco. 

Max is a whiz with all things computer related, especially the ins and outs of using the Church's massive database on members. Last week Max came down to Waco and spent an evening tutoring  the YSA Branch presidency. They were very appreciative of his help, and we're confident their new-found skills will pay rich dividends in finding and activation work here.

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