Hurricane Harvey Reveals the Heart of Ecumenical Cooperation in Mont Belvieu
In the past 10 years, Mont Belvieu, has experienced a 171% surge in population, leaping from 2,630 residents in 2007 to 7,313 in 2017. Mont Belvieu Emergency Services has been struggling to expand quickly enough to keep pace with the city’s rapid growth. Now, as entire subdivisions are submerged under water in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Mont Belvieu will depend on a strong local ecumenical effort to help provide relief.
Rev. Melody Kraus of First United Methodist Church of Mont Belvieu meets regularly with a group of other local pastors. Together, these leaders seek to love and serve their community across denominational lines. It is clear that these ecumenical efforts have created a deep bond of friendship between the churches. When Rev. Kraus arrived to inspect FUMC for damage on the Monday morning after Hurricane Harvey, she found Rev. Hilnote of Old River Baptist Church already there. He had come to check on the church for her.
Now these local churches will join hands and resources to serve their neighbors during their time of greatest need. Volunteers are hard at work setting up a shelter at Eagle Heights Fellowship where all participating churches will work together to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a community in crisis.
Serving God by partnering with neighboring congregations is nothing new for FUMC. The church, which will celebrate its 140-year anniversary this October, has a long history of opening its arms to the local Catholic parish, Holy Trinity. When Holy Trinity was established in the early 1990’s, FUMC hosted the new congregation for several years until they were able to build their own facility. Today, both congregations have grown with their community and Holy Trinity is in need once more. Recently Holy Trinity’s priest, Fr. Kahn, approached Rev. Kraus to ask if FUMC would be willing to share their space again while Holy Trinity underwent a building expansion.
“When I approached my congregation with HolyTrinity’s need,” Rev. Kraus said, “their response was, ‘Of course! It never occurred to them to refuse.”
Service times and meeting spaces were shifted to accommodate both congregations. Holy Trinity will begin sharing worship space with FUMC this September. During the ten months both churches meet in the FUMC building, they will participate in joint activities including feeding the hungry through the food pantry ministry, Methodist West. Holy Trinity will also join FUMC in hosting the community in their fall pumpkin patch. The two congregations will worship separately, but look forward to coming together for special Advent and Lenten services.
It is clear that FUMC and its faith partners in Mont Belvieu are passionate about God’s call to work across denominational lines in service to their community. This strong foundation of ecumenical cooperation will sure to be vital to not only shelter those displaced by the flooding, but to help them during the recovery process as well. FUMC is eager to be part of the effort.
“All you have to do is turn on the news to see that our entire nation is focused on our differences. It is really wonderful that this town is focused instead on what strengthens our community. It is an honor to be a part of it,” said Rev. Kraus.