Three years ago, Blake Hawkins found himself sitting forlornly and alone in a Pearland park.
“I was homeless,” he said. “I didn’t have a car. Didn’t have any money. Didn’t even have a cellphone. Basically, all I had was some luggage and some drug issues.”
Hawkins, who could easily be mistaken for an NFL defensive lineman in profile, is white. It wasn’t long before a trim and much smaller black man approached him as he sat on that park bench.
“It looks like you could use a prayer warrior,” Hawkins remembered the man saying to him. “The man sat with me, prayed with me and then took me home where his wife fed me and they let me spend the night and later invited me to church. I was too messed up to come then,” Hawkins recalled. “But I’m here now.”
The mystery park prayer person now works as a barber in Pearland. He’s reunited with Hawkins and he’s launched a new multiracial church known as the Church on the Bay. It is meeting at League City Elementary School near a cluster of other small churches. This haircutting preacher’s name is Dru Johnson.
He’s not the first of his line to pastor, either. Johnson is the part of a dynasty of ministry starters going back a generation or two. He’s also the son-in-law of the Rev. Kerry W. Tillmon of Westpoint Baptist.
“Church of the Bay is a multigenerational, multicultural life-giving church, that’s extremely intentional about resembling heaven,” Johnson said. “The way it’s described, there will be one people, in one place worshipping one God then. We’re a place, now, where people have come from many different backgrounds. They are looking for one thing: a place to belong. We are reaching people with God’s love and impacting this city through community. We are a real church for real people.”
Volunteers, some from as far away as Lake Jackson, have been at the school on this 51st Super Bowl Sunday. They have been here since about 6:30 a.m., lugging in and setting up massive HDTV screens, audio equipment, chairs, coffee and even commemorative football cupcakes for their guests.
Several of the core group are clad in football jerseys and Johnson gathers them to hold an impromptu pep rally and prayer just before the 9 a.m. service begins in the cafeteria. The scene afterward is coffee, doughnuts and folks fanning themselves for the excitement of shouted cheers of praise and a high decibel prayer. And that’s just the “pregame.”
Inside the converted worship space for the actual service, three dozen souls gather. The music powers across the acoustically hard surfaces that such cafeterias are constructed from making the song service something of a whole-body experience.
As the music dies down, Johnson takes the stage and sits at a cross-embossed lectern to hold forth on a passage from the Book of Romans on the topics of self-control and physical health.
By the time many of the other nearby churches are just cranking up their coffee makers, Church on the Bay is repacking their gear into a truck and trailer. They will be back each Sunday as well as at various times during the week to help with food distribution, tutoring and other volunteer activities.
Rev. Tillmon said he’s not surprised that his son-in-law has done some unusual outreach and crossed racial lines in creating this new congregation.
“He’s a multitalented young man, who is able to present an out-of-the-box ministry for these times of varied spiritual appetites, yet remain steadfast to the solid foundation that Jesus is Lord and the only means whereby lost souls may be saved,” he said. “Dru readily shares a special anointing to raise the praises of God until it feels like heaven.”
The church can be reached at 832-422-7732.
Next week in Our Faith: Meet the new senior pastor of one of the island’s most historic congregations.