By Dawson Bley
Dedicated to being “a church for all people with more than enough love to go around,” Westbury UMC in Houston recently appointed the Rev. Eleanor Colvin as its first black female senior pastor.
As a fourth-generation Methodist, Colvin is no stranger to the Church. She has ministered in a variety of capacities, serving as the Director of Communications for the Texas Annual Conference (TAC) and more recently as a pastor at St. Paul’s UMC in Houston and FUMC, College Station. Committed to heritage yet also looking to tailor her ministry to the modern era, Colvin is excited to bring her unique perspective to Westbury.
“It’s like I stand at the intersection of the tradition and the need for innovation,” Colvin said. “If we want the Church to have a life beyond us, then we have to think beyond us.”
With similar hopes, the TAC is intentionally working to find and create more church leadership roles for pastors of color.
“What the Texas Annual Conference is doing is important because it’s the only way we can truly bless the entire body of Christ and not just certain demographics, races or socioeconomic groups,” Colvin said. “When we strengthen our churches and help them become viable appointments for all pastors—including pastors of color—it’s the will of God and the way of God. God in God’s self chooses diversity.”
Some of Westbury’s primary values include multicultural inclusivity, community and transformation, and it has worked hard to cultivate a diverse body since its establishment in 1955. There is no dominating ethnic majority within the church, and its legacy of past leaders has mirrored this trend. Joining the group as the first black female pastor, Colvin thinks it only feels natural.
“I’m honored to hold the distinction as the first black woman (senior) pastor. Prayerfully, I won’t be the last,” Colvin said. “I’m looking forward to being part of a community that looks more like the world, that looks more like Houston and that looks more like God’s vision for the Church. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the most segregated hour is Sunday morning worship, and in many ways, Westbury is defying that assumption.”
While Colvin hopes to impact the people within the church, she also aims to reach the surrounding city. Drawing inspiration from Nehemiah’s model of individual responsibility and the importance of everyone playing their part, Colvin has a desire to empower the community to serve the community—even when it’s hard.
“Our discipleship is not a la carte. We don’t get to choose the things that make us comfortable or the things that are easy and natural for us to do,” Colvin said. “By trying to live and love as Christ would have lived and loved, I’m confident that God will unveil the things the community needs most.”
Westbury UMC welcomes Colvin’s arrival eagerly and echoes her enthusiasm for the coming transition.
“I am excited for this season, especially serving among diverse people with the hopes of reaching our diverse city,” Colvin said. “There’s so much possibility here. I’m looking forward to being surprised by God.”