First United Methodist Church Bryan Celebrates 150 Years of Ministry with a Year of Service
In 1868, a Methodist circuit rider, the Rev. H.V. Philpot, rode into the vibrant railroad town of Bryan, Texas. Soon he began holding worship services in the largest room in town- a theater space located above a saloon. As the numbers of worshippers grew, they were able to build a chapel on the land donated to the congregation by the local railroad. Church records show that first member of the newly established Methodist church was a Mrs. Smythe in June of 1868. This year, FUMC Bryan will celebrate 150 years of continuous ministry since that day.
A Year of Celebration and Service
The past year has been one long year of celebration for FUMC Bryan. “We have celebrated this historic anniversary with a year of giving back to our community,” said the Rev. Rick Sitton, Senior Pastor. The church has shown the love of Christ to their community in a variety of ways. In addition to building a home for Habitat for Humanity, FUMC Bryan has donated two of their church vans to organizations that minister to needy children, and contributed $10,000 to furnish a new men’s dorm for Save Our Streets (SOS) Ministries, an organization committed to helping men recover from homelessness, gangs and addiction.
In the spirit of the Bishop’s “We Love All God’s Children” initiative, FUMC Bryan has long been at work serving the children in their community. In the fall and spring of each year, the church hosts a ten-week Afterschool Kids program in which they both encourage literacy and share the love of Christ with the children in their care. This year, the church has taken their “We Love All God’s Children” investment a step further by adopting a local school.
Adapting to a Changing Culture
Over the past one and a half centuries, FUMC Bryan has witnessed dramatic cultural changes in downtown Bryan, but the church has maintained a stalwart commitment to minister to their neighbors. In an effort to better reach their community, FUMC Bryan has added a Hispanic and Contemporary service to their more traditional offerings. One hundred and fifty years after the church first began ministry above a saloon, they now offer four distinct worship services each Sunday.
The Contemporary service, led by the Rev. Jennifer Webber, welcomes 25-30 residents from a nearby halfway house into worship each week. This past January, Webber was honored to baptize 12 of the women from the facility whom she now leads in regular Bible study.
“We are doing everything we can to reach our downtown neighbors,” Sitton said, “but we are hard at work internationally too.” FUMC Bryan recently raised $70,000 to refurbish buildings in the aging UMC mission in Liberia. This month, work will begin on the last of seven buildings that have been restored through the effort. Sitton is thrilled that the upgrades will enable the mission, which includes a UMC seminary, to go forward in ministry for decades to come.
The 150th anniversary celebrations will culminate with a special service on June 10, 2018. On this day, all four services will join together for corporate worship to not only celebrate a rich history of ministry, but to look forward to the future. As an important part of the service, the entire church will participate in a dedicated time of prayer in which they seek God’s guidance for the future of their ministry.
When the last notes of the celebration fade, FUMC Bryan will get back to work as they prepare to host a large group of volunteers with the U.M. ARMY. “Our church’s motto is: LOVE. WITNESS. SERVE.” Sitton said, “Bryan is trying to make a difference for Christ in any way we can.”