It has been said that God can bring good even out of conflict. That is, in the end, that providence always wins. In the New Testament, the apostles Paul and Barnabas experienced such a “sharp disagreement that they parted company” in their missionary journeys as recorded in the book of Acts. The issue was the behavior of a younger disciple, Mark who had failed to follow through on a previous journey.
The end result though was that two mission teams reached even more Roman cities with the gospel they both shared.
Likewise, when Galveston’s venerable Reedy Chapel, A.M.E. was split down the middle over a minister, it gave birth to a new fellowship.
That daughter church will turn 153 this Sunday (see box) and like the ancient split, more islanders have benefited from the work of both churches than either alone could have provided. The daughter church that is celebrating is St. Paul United Methodist Church, 1425 Broadway Avenue.
The new church originally set up shop at the corner of 8th Street and Avenue H, but the 1900 storm erased that property from the map.
Now, if there were a half-century club here at St. Paul, Liz Francois would be a member of it.
“Sixty years ago, we were a new family to Galveston,” Francois said. “As we were settling in, Mom wanted to be part of a new church. Coincidentally, there was this new church less than two blocks away. Memories that are everlasting include the times when St. Paul had a large congregation, how the older members cared for the church and how they taught by example.”
In spite of the fact that it has been six decades since she first set foot in this historic space, this sanctuary still blesses her each Sunday.
“I am so thankful to God, knowing how awesome He is,” she added. “St. Paul has inspired me to strengthen my faith, to be thankful unto Him and to bless His name. We, throughout the years, have been blessed to have been led by powerful, spiritual leaders. Our current pastor, the Reverend Clarence White III, has surprised us with his dynamic messages. When he shares what God has given to him, something wonderful happens. The presence of the Holy Spirit is so overwhelming to me that it brings us tears of joy. I look forward to sharing the good word of Jesus with those who do not know the Lord. Reverend White encourages his congregation to be actively involved in the community.”
Ann Vogel has also been at St. Paul for decades. She picked up on the emphasis of her pastor, Rev. White for Galveston.
“He shows his heart for the church and for the island by encouraging his congregants to get out of their comfort zones and get involved in the community,” Vogel said. “He thrives on reaching out. In December 2018, Reverend White had an opportunity to speak at the local Saturday gathering hosted by the St. Vincent Student Clinic. Now, at least, once a month he is a visitor there for anyone who needs special assistance and prayer. He willingly provides a helping hand and spiritual guidance.”
In the changing culture and demographic of the island, most churches here have adopted modest goals for the future.
“The most immediate goal of our church is to survive,” White said. “It takes more than a little effort to survive for 153 years. The traditions and practices that helped us get to this point are not as applicable in today’s environment. So, we are faced with the same challenges that most historical communities are contending with: How to stay relevant while honoring the traditions of those that paved the way.”
One recent emphasis has been on the arts as an expression of faith, White said.
“Two years ago, our congregation commissioned the Elder Willis Williams Fine Arts Academy to advance our belief in the arts. We believe that real ministry has to occur wherever the people are gathered on a daily basis. We are intentional about providing opportunities for the young and the young at heart to express their love of Jesus Christ through various forms of art. We believe that the story of Jesus Christ can resonate greater with the young when music, dance, acting and other engaging forms of art are involved.”
The original pattern of multiplication has also continued over time. St. Paul, a product of Reedy Chapel, in turn gave birth to another island congregation, Wesley Tabernacle United Methodist Church.
Next week in Our Faith: Fire and water. Believers in Paradise, Calif. reflect on facing a different kind of disaster from our floods with the same kind of faith Harvey found here.