A few decades after the Civil War, a lone Methodist circuit-riding preacher stood on the banks of Chigger Creek to address the faithful farmers who rode or drove their buggies out on a Sunday morning. The group who heard him later went on to found what would become League City United Methodist Church. The year was 1895.
Now one of the oldest churches in town is moving from Main Street to the burgeoning west side with an elaborate new campus designed to minister to both its traditional base and the growing number of “nones” who have no ties to any established faith.
The Rev. Joel D. McMahon IV, who serves as senior pastor here, explained:
“The church has been here since League City was settled, and as a congregation, they’ve always tried to be where the people are to glorify God in worship and reach out to meet their needs,” he said. “It began in the original part of town, moved out to where the people were going to be near the Gulf Freeway in the 1950s. Now we’re moving to our new location, only a mile from where we have been, to be close to where our people both are and will be as League City continues to grow. That’s how God works: bringing his grace and presence to the people.”
Greg Miller, a former reporter who is a spokesman for the church, said that such moves are always emotional experiences.
“There is always some anxiety when you leave a familiar place that symbolizes so many significant moments in people’s lives,” he said. “But, this new church campus will be a step forward for the followers of Christ and the people who yearn to learn about him and his teachings.”
Miller recalled how the last 17 years he’s invested here came back to him in a rush. It was during the decommissioning service for the church’s massive, concrete and stone structure set at 1411 W. Main St.
“As I sat in our final service on Aug. 13 at our old church, I could barely speak or sing because of the flood of emotions that overcame me,” Miller said. “I thought about the day I joined the church in 2000 and the feelings of joy and hope that swept over me. I took it as a sign that this church was the right one for me. I thought back on my wedding, the baptism of one child and the confirmation of both my children. I thought about the people I mourned who have left this earth.”
During those years, the church addressed both 9/11 and two space shuttle disasters, as well as Hurricane Ike.
“I thought about all the friends I had made and the joys and sorrows we shared,” Miller said. “And, I thought about how each Sunday there is wonderful music to lift up and inspire the people. I thought about the thousands and thousands of families this church has fed with its food truck ministry.”
As denominations conflict and contrast, land prices soar-especially mid-county. These factors make acquiring a first-rate, brand-new campus impossible for most local congregations.
The Methodist denomination in the United States has been losing members since 1970, with double-digit loses over the last few decades. Few of its churches nationwide are building or expanding.
McMahon knows this and he’s grateful that his is one of the few exceptions to the current cultural, church and economic climates. In addition to divine intervention, their advanced planning for property surely worked in their favor.
“God has been so good,” the pastor said. “The church has been working toward this for years. They purchased the property in 2006, and in the past few years, things have fallen into place beautifully. It’s been humbling to see the doors open in just the right way at just the right time.”
The pair invite the public to be part of the church’s celebratory first service at 11 a.m. Sunday, followed by a picnic at noon at 1601 W. League City Parkway.
“This Sunday’s service will be momentous as we will commission a new building and this new holy place will house a new chapter of memorable experiences and life-changing events as we learn and live by God’s word,” Miller said.
Next week in Our Faith: Part two of romance and faith will celebrate couples of diverse faith traditions who have been married for more than four decades.