Country Church, City Lights: Addicks UMC
By: Sherri Gragg
Addicks UMC, Houston is rolling to a new location for the fourth time in its 139-year history.
In The Little House, the beloved children’s book by Virginia Lee Burton, a quaint home is built “way out in the country” where it is surrounded by fields and apple trees. Far away, in the distance, the little house can see the faint lights of the city, lights that move closer and closer as the seasons go by.
Eventually, the city overtakes the little house. High-rise buildings tower above it, and concrete surrounds it. At night, the sad little house dreams of moonlight on the apple trees.
Until the day when a woman rescues her by moving her back into the country where she belongs.
A similar story could be written about Addicks United Methodist Church. During its 139-year existence, it too has seen the city lights steadily grow closer and closer. Historical records note that the first parsonage, erected in 1910, came complete with a ten-acre plot of land perfect for farming. It was a necessity. The closest supermarket was 20 miles away by horse and wagon.
More than 100 years later, the little church is hemmed in by an urban landscape. “The most recent expansion of Hwy 6 took our front yard,” said the Rev. Kristine Garner. “The road was only five feet away from the building. We were practically tucked under the overpass.” The solution was a familiar one for Addicks UMC.
Move the church.
On the Road Again
The first week of May 2018, the congregation of Addicks UMC began the process of moving their beautiful historical church for the fourth time in its history. The site of the first building, constructed in 1890, was prone to flooding. Congregants placed it on logs and rolled it to drier ground in 1902 where it sat until it was destroyed by a tornado in the summer of 1915. But they wasted no time in rebuilding. They moved into their new beautiful white, clapboard structure, complete with steeple and lancet windows, in December of the same year. For the next 30 years, Addicks UMC grew and prospered as the city inched ever closer.
Water, Water Everywhere
In 1949, the Corp of Engineers finalized plans to build a reservoir in the area. Unfortunately, Addicks UMC sat right in the middle of the proposed site. This time, the little church was picked up and rolled to safety on the other side of the dam. Three short years later, in 1952, another tornado blew the church off of its foundation. Repairs were made and the church enjoyed five years of stability until 1957 when the first widening of Hwy 6 forced it to move several feet southeast. The fourth, most recent, and hopefully the last move commenced Friday, May 4, 2018.
“My son says we have a portable pulpit,” Garner said with a laugh.
A Respite for City Dwellers
Addicks UMC will remain on the same two-acre, tree-lined property, but will move further away from the road and turn to face a park instead of the highway. Garner is excited about the future of her church. As she looks out over the peaceful swath of green in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Energy Corridor, she can envision the little “country” church offering a rare gift to stressed city-dwellers.
“I want it to be a respite,” she said, “a place where people can come to rest, and connect back to what is real and the Love that created us.”
If Addicks UMC’s history of resilience is any indication of its future, it should be busy fulfilling Garner’s vision for hundreds of years to come.