Murchinson UMC and Port Arthur St. Paul: Face to Face and Heart to Heart in the Worst of Times
By: Sherri Gragg
You Are Not Alone
As Northwest District Superintendent Rev. Marlin Fenn began to hear stories about the hurricane damage suffered by sister churches in the Southeast District, he knew the recovery process would be a crushing financial burden for many of them. In response, he challenged the churches in his own district, which had been spared the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, to contribute to the apportionment payments of the damaged churches. “We want the say to the damaged churches, ‘You are not in this alone,’” Fenn said.
Murchinson Offers Support
Many of the churches responded positively to Fenn’s challenge, but none more so than Murchinson UMC. Murchinson wasn’t satisfied, however, with simply contributing funds toward the apportionment payments. They wanted to also come alongside one of the flooded churches to pray for them and encourage them. “When we got the news of Harvey,” Murchinson Senior Pastor Thomas Haygood said, “our churches in East Texas bean to pray for and reach out to them because many of our clergy friends and lay members are part of that situation.”
Haygood contacted Fenn and requested that Murchinson be partnered with one of the suffering churches so that they might offer them encouragement on an ongoing basis. Fenn worked with Southeast District Superintendent Alicia Coltzer Besser to find a good fit for Murchinson. Besser suggested matching Murchinson with Port Arthur St. Paul.
Murchinson member, Dr. Holley Collier, enthusiastically led her church in going above and beyond for their suffering brothers and sisters in Port Arthur St. Paul. Collier organized fellow members to participate in a video recording offering messages of encouragement and comfort to the church. Since that time, Haygood has been in close contact Port Arthur St. Paul pastor Rev. David Daviss. The pastors are considering exchanging pulpits one Sunday to further strengthen the bond between the two churches. Haygood hopes the support Murchinson has provided Port Arthur St. Paul will be the foundation of a sister relationship between the two churches.
An Opportunity for All
Seventy-five churches in the Texas conference were damaged during Hurricane Harvey. Fenn is encouraging more churches in the Northwest District to follow Murchinson’s example and do what they can to support the damaged churches in the Southeast. “Tragedies can bring out the best and the worst in people. We are encouraging our churches to be the best that they can in response to the pain other churches are going through. The gifts of the spirit are relational gifts.”