Calvary UMC: Refocus Brings Reawakening

Date Posted: 4/10/2014

Getting ahead involves getting started. The members of Calvary UMC are seeing their church grow inside and out with new community partnerships and inspiration from Rev. Keith Somerville.

American author and humorist Mark Twain was quoted suggesting that, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” So, when Rev. Keith Somerville was appointed to Calvary United Methodist Church in Houston this January, he rallied the congregation together and started by listening to their hearts and desires. Before long, new beginnings gave way to new energy, which led to new members and, in a matter of weeks, Calvary was celebrating 100 in attendance.
Pastor Keith (known as PK) is a firm believer that each pastor plays an important role in the tapestry of a church – past, present and future. “As a current pastor, I stand on the shoulders of the men and women who came before me, thus reinforcing the connectional system in which we serve together.” He adds, “I know that I have personally learned a great deal from mentors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus, for example, when it comes to understanding and implementing community initiatives.”
Upon arrival to Calvary UMC, Pastor Keith immediately sensed a grassroots swell of support to revisit the mission of the church in old and new ways -- and a readiness for revitalization. "The vision for Calvary in 2014 and beyond,” he notes, “is to serve as a safe place for spiritual growth, experience Christ-like love, and become the center of community life in Trinity Gardens." 
He says Sunday mornings are focused on inspiring, igniting, equipping, and informing God’s people for continued growth and service. And, on weekdays, the leadership has been taking the church to the people of the community by building collaborative bridges with regional organizations and leaders.  “When at all possible,” notes Keith, “I believe the clergy should reach out to the community partnerships and then establish a chain of communication.
Once on staff here, I began reaching out through phone calls and emails and forging intentional relationships with city government. Then my wife and I began attending their community meetings to show the level of commitment we had in building relationships.”
Here is a partial list of new externally focused initiatives created in just a few short weeks:
  • Calvary UMC started a partnership with the Houston Food Bank where they come to the church and provide applications and interviews for the SNAP Program (formally Food Stamps) and Medicaid Assistance.
  • Calvary UMC also completed the application to partner with the Houston Food Bank to provide 10,000 lbs of food once a month to the Trinity Gardens Community in the South/East part of Houston.
  • Calvary UMC is facilitating a partnership with Higher Power to offer AA meetings twice a month in the sanctuary, and host free processional line-dancing classes weekly.
  • District-B Council Member Jerry Davis joined worship to congratulate Calvary for making an impact in the community in such a short time, and Pastor Keith was invited to do the opening invocation for Houston City Council meeting on February 4th.
  • Calvary youth and young adults are already planning for a summer that includes programming for spiritual and academic growth, summer fun events and a conference for young adults that will focus on the many issues they face daily. 
“I see God at work most visibly through the hearts of the people,” he shares. “God has stirred up a new sense of drive, energy, and courage to serve in new ways in our community. Some activities are based on previous relationships and others are being started new.”
Among those who are jumping at the chance to partner with Calvary UMC are: City Councilman District 4 Jerry Davis, Pamlin Collins with Higher AA, Constance Jones with SNAP, Yolanda Williams with the Houston Food Bank, Karen Chatman with the Capitol Management Group, and Sandra Massey-Hines with End Hunger Sunnyside Collaboration.
How does Calvary UMC initiate as well as tighten bonds with members and its neighbors? PK says, “Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have kept our members and community informed of any upcoming events or news about Calvary UMC. Additionally, we are currently working on the launch of a new website and monthly newsletter to further our outreach and connectivity. For more about Calvary UMC visit us on FB or follow us on twitter #CalvaryConvo.”
Longtimer Brittney Howard became a member of Calvary UMC at the age of six. Shares Brittney, “I have literally grown up at Calvary. Considering we have one of the smaller churches, I have so much joy in my heart to see it begin to expand at the seams. Our size has created a family environment that is truly unexplainable.  Since the blessed arrival of Pastor Keith and First Lady Jessica Somerville the love, membership and partner organizations have begun to flourish.”
Pastor Keith is seeing former members return, new members emerging from the congregation and assuming leadership roles in ministry, and current leaders’ passion for ministry being reinvigorated.
“Calvary is the epitome of a community church with many of the families living less than 10 miles away. As we continue to forge new partnerships, I believe more residents will come out to see all that God is doing at Calvary United Methodist Church, aka The Blessing by the Bus Stop,” he adds.
The congregation’s renewed energy is contagious. Ayesha Simpson began attending just a few weeks ago. “As a newcomer I'm impressed with the bold moves the leadership is making in the church: creating strategic partnerships to spread God’s word and help His people -- and embracing and utilizing social media to show the community how Calvary is reaching people and merging new ideas with traditional ones.” She immersed herself into the life of the church immediately by joining the children’s ministry. “I am beyond excited to teach children about the love of Christ and His miracles. As a person with an early childhood background, I bring strategies and ideas of how to teach children about Christ in a developmentally appropriate way. “Adds Ayesha, “I believe other churches can rejuvenate themselves by embracing new ideas, recognizing that we must employ new tactics to achieve the same goals.”
Brittney is also invigorated by the revival of membership and new focus. “I'm super excited to see that the children's church has taken off in such a magnificent direction. I feel that in order for other churches to rejuvenate themselves it has to start with great leadership and hard working members. Calvary United Methodists church has all those elements, so the best is yet to come!”