A new faith community is beginning with the congregation of Glenbrook UMC and people who have chosen to remain United Methodist.

Rev. Dr. Elijah A .Stansell Jr. serves as the District Superintendent of the Central South District and leads the African American Church Initiative (AACI). For months, he has been working with members of disaffiliated African American churches in Houston who have wanted to stay United Methodist, trying to find them a new home and a new leader.

Bishop Cynthia Harvey and the appointive cabinet identified Briggs as the candidate to lead the charge. Briggs has served as pastor of Abundant Life UMC in Lufkin for the past nine years.

When Briggs was first appointed to Abundant Life in the summer of 2014, the church stood alone on 10 acres of land. The pastor felt a calling for the space to serve the community.

Now, that dream has come to fruition – with the completion of three major projects. Construction on both the satellite location of the East Texas Community Health Services and the multi-purpose building wrapped in December 2021. Then, the church launched a licensed preschool on campus.

“It’s all here and established,” Briggs said. “We’ve built great partnerships, and we’ve expanded our capacity to do ministry.”

After much reflection Pastor Briggs looks back at nine years and celebrates the Abundant Life ministry as “great ministry.”

“I’ve been driven by the needs of the community – and just our wealth of resources,” he said. “I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about the people of Abundant Life, our land, the partnerships, the heart and the desire.”

There was no doubt that Abundant Life was leaning into its mission to be a blessing to the community.

The projects he started in Lufkin felt complete and were sustainable. He began to think of what opportunities for ministry might lie ahead in a different city. “I couldn’t justify not stepping out,” he said.

Briggs and Stansell started brainstorming. At the time, there was not yet a location for the new faith community that Stansell was guiding. Instead, a core group had formed and engaged in strategic planning. Stansell also employed two coordinators to help move the congregation forward.

Briggs’ goal is to focus on building relationships with the members of the New Faith Community Houston Hobby and to develop community partnerships.

He considers it also a great honor and responsibility to serve as pastor for the group, who are stepping out in faith to build something new. “The preaching must be relevant and meaningful – and just soaked in the promises of God,” he said. “I can create, from the ground up, new experiences where people can encounter God and encounter one another.”

Briggs continued, “I’m ready to do the work. I’m excited to meet the people. I’m excited about what could be. I am just really honored, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to do something like this in the Texas Annual Conference.”