A Dozen Churches Join the “Serve-olution” to Impact Lives in Galveston
Twelve churches and over 1200 volunteers worked to lift the name of Jesus throughout Galveston Island through a combined “Serve-olution” event.
Creativity has been one of the core values at Galveston Central Church in Galveston since it’s inception as a revitalization project connected with The Watershed UMC in League City, the South District, and the Texas Annual Conference. That creativity is inspired in part by Michael Gienger, who preaches barefooted on Sundays amidst sanctuary pews surrounded by sofas and other casual chairs.
Notes Michael, “We serve a creative God, so we want all aspects of our lives to mirror that creativity whether it be through the arts or through creative problem solving. We've operated with three guiding questions: What if old and new weren't opposites? What if tradition and innovation weren't necessarily exclusive? What if the church reclaimed her position as the cultural center of creativity?
Adds Michael, “We've developed our own smartphone app that can be downloaded to communicate with our congregants,” he shares. Congregants never know what to expect. For example, Central did a balloon drop on Easter, and is currently doing a coloring book sermon series where folks are handed a coloring sheet and crayons at the beginning of service.” Central also posts video answers to questions placed in the “ask it basket” each week.
There's often dancing and poetry and art. According to Michael, there are married couples, Baby Boomers, and a few folks in their ‘70s. “Some have homes while others are homeless. Other than that, it's mostly folks who are between the ages of 22 and 42 and single,” he notes. “It's pretty easy to look around on a Sunday morning and wonder, what do all of these people have in common?"
Creativity also motivates how Central UMC serves.
“We participated in Servolution for the first time this year on May 1,” Michael explains. “Servolution is a Galveston-wide event where local congregations serve in the community during their typical Sunday morning worship time. We worked at Wright-Cuney Recreation Center, a city-operated park that serves one of the poorer neighborhoods on the island.”
Volunteers cleaned the facilities, picked up trash, repaired playground equipment, and weeded the community garden. The dozen churches also included Moody UMC and a variety of other denominations helping at 22 different work sites for Servolution this year. Adds Michael, “We plan to participate again next year. Non-members definitely participate. We even had a large number of kids from the local apartment complex come out and work with us in the community garden.”
Doug Bowen, one of Central’s active volunteers, says that, "Servolution was a great opportunity to actually go out and be the Church. We were reminded that worship doesn't just take place inside the walls of the church building. I was grateful for the opportunity."
Charity Trivia Night is another example of creativity-inspired outreach. It is designed as a fun way for people to get together, eat great food, and raise money for great local causes. He shares, “We rent out a local restaurant - Smooth Tony's - for the evening. Participants form teams with each person paying $10 to play. After three rounds of 10 questions, the winning team gets to decide what local charity receives the money that was raised. “This year,” Michael adds, “we will be donating $1,000 to the Galveston Humane Society.”
Creativity through Music
Typically, worship at Central might include traditional hymns and top-40 pop songs. Worship leader Brandon Williams says, "One of the ways we strive for creativity in music here at Central is through the use of popular or "secular" music at the beginning of service. We recognize that God is the one that bestows talent on the Hillsongs as well as the Beyonces! At Central, we want to continue to blur the line between the sacred and the secular, reclaiming the message of popular music and using it to point people back to the gospel."
According to Michael, each service begins with a ’non-traditional’ worship song that fits with the theme of the day. Some of the most recent have been "Come Sail Away" by Styx for a sermon on Noah, "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty for the fiery furnace, "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten for David and Goliath. “I hope that whenever people hear the music that they're listening to in the course of their lives, they'll be reminded of something from a sermon message,” he says. Taking it one step further, the band will often record a short video after service of the opening song as an easy way for us to share what happens on Sundays with the Facebook community. The goal, he explains, is to help make folks feel comfortable about visiting for the first time.
While the church actually celebrated its 131 anniversary, the current congregation technically celebrated its first birthday as a revitalized family of Christ followers. Leaders continue to pursue the “divine” in the midst of unlikely intersections happening at Central. Says Michael, “We are seeing a blurring of the lines between the sacred and secular, between ancient and modern, between ages and races and our goal is to imagine more new points of intersection in the months and years ahead.”