By Lindsay Peyton

The contemporary worship service NewSong has relaunched at FUMC Pearland – with renewed purpose. Members from disaffiliated churches are now becoming regulars, alongside other new faces.

On Sunday mornings, worshippers gather at 10:45 a.m. at the gym on FUMC Pearland’s campus. Pastor Rev. Thea Curry-Fuson moves their seats close together and preaches standing on the floor, instead of on a pulpit. She wants to be on the same level, to build connection and community – and foster a sense of authenticity.

The mission at FUMC Pearland is: “Follow Jesus, build real relationships, grow in real discipleship and experience real transformation.”

“Notice the emphasis on the word ‘real,’” Rev. Curry-Fuson said. She believes that people today are hungry for authentic relationships and experiences – and that’s what she hopes to build at NewSong.

The service first launched in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. “It was designed to reach younger families,” Curry-Fuson said. “They had a few big Sundays, but it had not continued to grow.”

Members were lost during the pandemic, and the pastor who started it eventually disaffiliated.

This year, FUMC Pearland decided to relaunch the group, with Curry-Fuson at the helm. This time, the mission would be different – to reach a multigenerational group in the community looking for something different and to provide a safe-haven for members leaving churches that have disaffiliated in the area.

Before the first worship service, Curry-Fuson was given a list of 35 names to call  – all who were committed to staying at NewSong. At the first gathering, on Sunday, Jan. 8, 90 people attended.

The number continues to grow. By March, 130 showed up on Sunday. There were celebrations of new members and adult baptisms. “We were seeing real transformation, a real response to the Gospel,” Curry-Fuson said. “People are saying, ‘This is our home.’”

While NewSong is not a plant, the passion of the group is similar. “It’s a community of people who are all ready to do something new,” Curry-Fuson said.

And they’re spreading the word. Curry-Fuson said families are calling former members, and telling them, “Come back, give it another try. It’s different.”

Dreaming in new ways

Curry-Fuson had previously served at FUMC Pearland, as Family Ministry Director at the congregation’s former plant, “Redeemer.”

“Being a church plant, I felt we would have a lot of opportunities to try new things,” she said. “It was so exciting. We grew to 500 in five years, so many kids and so many families.”

While there, Curry-Fuson fell in love with church planting, the energy and innovation involved. “My God is a God who does something new and exciting,” she said.

Before serving at Redeemer, Curry-Fuson worked part-time at Chapelwood Lake Jackson, serving as the Children’s Ministry Assistant Intern. She found her way to ministry after working in the nonprofit world – at Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, followed by the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston.

Curry-Fuson also became a licensed local pastor in 2019. She is seeking ordination this May, to be celebrated at the upcoming Annual Conference. 

In 2021, Curry-Fuson returned to Chapelwood Lake Jackson, this time as associate pastor. The following year, she was appointed pastor at the former Columbia UMC, located in West Columbia, a rural town about 14 miles east of Angelton, Texas.

When the congregation voted to disaffiliate last fall, Curry-Fuson committed to staying United Methodist. “This is the only church for me, the place where I’d seen my family transformed,” she said. “I never doubted or questioned.”

Her District Superintendent called and asked if she would consider returning to FUMC Pearland to serve as the driver of NewSong.  She said that the idea had actually already been stirring in her heart.

Only looking forward

People are coming from all around to attend NewSong, including Friendswood, Pasadena and Manvel, a wide area where there is no longer a United Methodist presence. There are also families in the group who did not have a church home before joining New Song.

Because the group is just starting, Curry-Fuson said there is opportunity for everyone to get involved. She asks, “Where would you like to serve? What would you like to lead?”

“You’ve got to show people they are needed and wanted and make it theirs,” she said. “Who has a voice who needs to be heard? Who has a story to tell?”

Curry-Fuson encourages members to dream together. “We’re not looking back,” she said. “We’re only looking forward. God is taking us somewhere new.”

NewSong is continuing to grow and to form its unique identity. Curry-Fuson is looking for ways to build outreach and mission. “I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can show up in our community,” she said.

“God is real,” Curry-Fuson continued. “God is really at work, really transforming people. We know it. We experienced it.” And the Holy Spirit is at work, helping NewSong triple its membership in mere months, the pastor added. “That is God on the move. God is really doing this.”