Church Tour: Methodist

We started this church tour hoping to see God at work in denominations that were unfamiliar to us, like Mennonite and Greek Orthodox, but along the way, we have visited a few churches in more familiar denominations. One of the most prominent of these has been Methodist. Of all the mainline denominations, Methodist seems the best fit for us for a variety of reasons. However, I spent four years in college going to a Methodist church that right now would not be a good fit for me even though I love the people from my college group. Still, we have learned something very important about Christianity on this tour. There are easily over 100 different denominations and subdenominations in the Christian church, but even among the smallest denominations, there is great variety from church to church. I actually both love and fear this about Christianity. I fear that there is too much arbitrary division over ridiculous issues, but I see that even within those division, God works to shape individual churches toward unique callings just as he does to individual people. While most churches within a denomination share the same basic core beliefs, it is amazing to see the diversity within these denominations, the different worship styles and demographics, the different doctrinal emphases, and the different programs.

We have visited two different local Methodist churches in the last few months, and both of them were completely different.

The first one we visited was a small church in the Heights. We chose it had a female lead pastor (with a hyphenated name), and we had only been to one church so far with a female leader. Unfortunately, she was gone the day we went, but the lay leaders who led in her place were great. We went to a traditional service. When I was in college, I always attended a contemporary service. I don't think I had ever been to a traditional Methodist service. Some things were the same, like the attendance sheets that you pass down the row. Isn't it funny how every denomination has these quirky unique things like this. The traditional worship was beautiful. The building was stone with stained glass, simple but elegant. Those adjectives would also describe the choir. I think that is what I liked most about this church. It was simple and elegant. I have been to many traditional services that are beautiful, but stuffy. I was refreshed to see such beauty without all the airs. When we got home later that day, the church had already sent us a flower pot with a welcoming note. I can safely say that Methodists have been by far the most welcoming denomination in general for us. There is not even a close second.

The other church we visited was a church down in Third Ward that was started as a slave church for the congregants of First Methodist in Houston. We were drawn to its unique heritage and its work toward racial and gender reconciliation. We loved the Gospel music. We also loved the sermon, with its captivating and participatory delivery style. More than anything, we loved how welcome we felt. I think at least 75% of the church came to greet us during the welcoming time in the service. The pastor asked us to stand and introduce ourselves, and then he informed us that we could stop searching because we had found our home. After the service, several people talked to us. One woman remebered seeing us a few times at the grocery store, and sure enough, after the service, she saw us there again and called out to us by name. It was really a moving experience. Our last church really emphasizes community, but I am not sure that white middle class people like myself really understand community. We commune well with people that are similar to us, but we have no idea how to form families with strangers, how to create a community that is larger than 10 or 12 people. This church was large, but it felt like a huge family that was excited to include us. They spent time sharing each other's burdens and accomplishments during the service. The pastor knew everyone's business. Everyone knew everyone's business. One thing this confiremed for us is that we don't want to go to end up in a church that is all or mostly white people. God has too much to teach us through our brothers and sisters of other races, nationalities, and cultures. This issue has been important to both of us in our jobs and academic lives, but it has sadly not been as much of a priority in our spiritual lives. We want to change that.

There is still another Methodist church on our list. We will probably visit there in a couple of weeks. Next up is another Presbyterian church, and eventually we will make it to the Quaker meeting down in Friendswood.

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