Taking Worship Outside the Walls

Date Posted: 7/10/2014

Vibrant churches practice what they preach. This year, 1,053 members of St. Peter’s UMC, Katy participated in 24 projects in the surrounding area, sending a powerful message about the character of the church and the power of tying mission to ministry.
Visitors arriving to St. Peter’s UMC, Katy on a Sunday morning in early June would find a parking place in record time only to see the sanctuary empty. Instead they would be greeted by groups of members who traded their neckties and high heels for tennis shoes and joined work crews to handle special projects together – on and off campus.
“We are familiar with what Sunday morning worship is supposed to look like,” says staff member Elaine Saunders. “It normally takes place in the worship center, includes hymns or praise songs, and it has a sermon or message. At St. Peter’s UMC, Sunday morning worship looks a little different when the congregation takes worship outside of the walls of the church and into the Katy community. For four years, St. Peter’s has dedicated one Sunday in June to worshipping God through service to their neighbors. Known as Church Without Walls (CWOW), this worship event includes reaching out to others through activities such as building walls for a Habitat for Humanity house, assembling flood buckets to be distributed after disasters, and cutting out smocks for use by women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.”

This year, 1,053 St. Peter’s members participated in 24 projects in Katy and the surrounding area. There were projects for every age and ability and even two projects on campus specifically for guests who were coming to the church for the first time. Senior Pastor Dr. Pat Sparks says that Church Without Walls sends a powerful message about the character of St. Peter’s. “When people join our church, they will often say one of the things that brought them here is the amount of involvement we have in our community. Church Without Walls is one of the most visible ways in which St. Peter’s reaches out to our neighbors to live out our mission statement of connecting the world with God’s love.”  
While many of the projects involved hands-on labor such as building fences, sewing quilts and landscaping grounds, some were focused on building relationships. A group of 150, including children’s choir members, went to the Brookwood Community for adults with disabilities to spend time in worship and fellowship with the residents. The church’s student ministries took another 150 adults, students, and children to a local apartment complex to spend time with the children who live there. They provided worship, a Bible lesson, crafts, a water slide, and a cookout for the kids. But mostly they gave of themselves, getting to know the children and spending time with them.
Additionally, St. Peter’s choirs shared their special gift of music at four senior residences and a church. The Youth Choir and Men’s Ensemble also tackled some repairs on the church building after they sang during worship. Associate Pastor Nathan Bledsoe said the effects of this annual day of service extend into the rest of the year as people get first-hand experience in the importance of missions.
“The part of CWOW that most excites me is the lasting impact it has on the hearts of our congregants,” Nathan shares. “This was my first year to be a part of St. Peter’s for the event, which was truly wonderful, but what I’m most excited about are the after-effects. We’ve had several folks express an interest in staying involved in one of our projects and training to mentor system-affected youth. We also have about a dozen church members now involved with the planning stages of a new Katy Area chapter of Habitat for Humanity. I attribute a large part of this movement of the Spirit to raised awareness and understanding created by Church Without Walls.”