New Campus Partnership Exemplifies the Strength of the UMC Connection
Mutual goals lead Covenant Glen UMC Missouri City and First UMC Houston into a strategic campus-sharing partnership.
From a young age, we are taught to share. As we grow older we call it collaboration and it is especially powerful in the context of Kingdom work. First UMC Houston (Central South District) and Covenant Glen UMC Missouri City (Southwest District) have recently collaborated in a way that's resulting in 1) a positive future and faith energy for both congregations, 2) the chance to grow the church in a more diverse setting and 3) serving as a new ministry model leveraging cooperation.
The Back Story: Needs Become Opportunities
Having outgrown its worship space, Covenant Glen UMC, under the leadership of Dr. Robert Childress, sought a new “home.” Relocating in 2015 would allow the sale of the original campus and give the congregation time to raise money for a new campus. According to Dr. Steve Wende of FUMC Houston, the 2200-seat worship center on First UMC Houston’s Westchase campus was a perfect fit for “such a time as this.” Task forces determined there was sufficient space for both churches to host their normal events while sharing the campus and a unique partnership agreement took effect this summer.
“From its very beginnings,” Dr. Wende shares, “First Church has been a city church, ministering across lines of culture, race and background in the name of Christ. The new venture with Covenant Glen UMC sharing our Westchase campus is in some ways groundbreaking, but in other ways simply a continuation of that tradition. There are different worship services, styles and languages, but all are one in the Lord Jesus! The spirit of both churches is excellent, and the openness and hospitality being shown by the members of both churches is inspiring. We truly believe that this is the start of something that can make a huge impact for God’s Kingdom in West Houston and the world.”
Adds Andy, “What I saw from the outset were two leadership teams who were committed to finding common benefits, a shared solution, and were creative in pioneering new ways to work out an arrangement. All of our meetings were covered in prayer and thoughtful conversation. As we imagined this revitalized campus we developed a rallying cry in creating a kind of ‘food court for Jesus’ by offering several worship choices. This image provided energy to work through all the complex logistical and financial details.”
Additionally, FUMC's The Vine praise service is already expanding to a second service. “In one of my recent Sunday visits,” explains Andy, “I saw a spirit of Christian fellowship as both congregations live into this new arrangement. Bishop Huie was critical in getting the conversations started between the two leadership teams and her energy and vision sustained us through several months of meetings and the difficult work that emerged to achieve this common vision.”
Rev. Jay Jackson, Southwest District Superintendent says this cooperative arrangement “represents the best kind of Kingdom work that I have recently experienced.” Adds Jay, “Two very different United Methodist congregations with very different traditions have united to provide a shared ministry at the Westchase campus that will strengthen both congregations and better serve the wider mission field they now share. Enough appreciation cannot be shared about the leadership and vision of Bishop Huie and the assistance of Rev. B. T. Williamson and Dr. Elijah Stansell in this process. Clergy and lay leadership from both congregations were instrumental in working cooperatively and constructively to achieve a stronger and more diverse United Methodist presence in this vital mission field.”
Adds Robert, “Covenant Glen believed that a partnership with First Methodist Houston could benefit both campuses in a practical way as well as create a new model for revitalization and growth through all of Methodism. I applaud the leadership of Bishop Huie and both District Superintendents for supporting such a bold endeavor.”