We have had the JOY of knowing each of the senior ministers of SLUMC and each has had a positive influence on our faith journey.
Our family of four joined SLUMC in the summer of 1963, having moved to Houston from Oklahoma City where we were actively involved in our small Nichols Hills Methodist Church. I recall saying to our children’s director that our logical church choice would be SLUMC, as we had bought a home on Bellmeade. I vividly recall moaning to her, “But it’s so big!” Her comment was “the bigger the church the more corners there are where people can hide – get in there and volunteer.” As a family, we took her advice seriously and it has continued to urge us to serve in various ways.
However, our personal history/connection with SLUMC dates more than 10 years prior to our move. Rev. Durwood Fleming performed our wedding ceremony at St. Paul’s UMC where my family had attended since moving to the city in 1945. I had gone to MYF at SLUMC more often than at St. Paul’s and felt a connection to their young minister. Although he was named president of Southwestern before our move to Houston, we had kept in touch with the Flemings through multi-family connections.
Kenneth Shamblin was named our senior minister in the 1960’s; SLUMC had moved from our current Fellowship Hall into our spacious permanent sanctuary. Early on, Ed and I both taught Sunday School – he took on the Jr. High classes and I stayed with the primary grades. Then we progressed to various board positions as we settled into the responsibilities of membership.
Our two children continued to be active at SLUMC, enjoying MYF, singing in Bob Bennett’s choirs and teaching in the summer camps. We were an “all in” family. Kenneth was very interested in Ed’s NASA Apollo/Soyuz involvement with the Russians. They were, in turn, curious about our church affiliation and requested a tour. As it happened, Ed’s Russian counterpart was a Christian, however a quiet one in the Soviet Union. Kenneth was enthusiastic in his response.
When Walter Underwood became our senior minister, the Sunday format changed and we began attending the Randy Smith Bible Study Class; don’t bother to count the years we’ve claimed that fellowship as our own. Walter also jolted our congregation with a new outreach attitude which has only expanded over the years. With joy, we have both served in leadership roles over the decades. When Walter was named Bishop, the search for a new minister was begun. We were delighted to endorse a Louisiana minister, a young Jim Moore.
Jim served SLUMC over 20 years as our senior minister; ours was to become a lasting friendship. Jim baptized our “caboose”, Charlie, as well as our two grandsons. He prayed us through family ups and downs with constant faith and a lasting example of Christian love. We learned volumes from his writings as well as his three point sermons. Jim had a way of personally reaching out/giving back that has marked – for a lifetime – everyone in our family.
Our daughter continues to sing in choirs in Tulsa and has served two churches as Minister of Music; Scooter and Clare were married here, raised their boys here and served as Stewardship Chairs in the early 1990’s; they continue to witness the faith they learned at SLUMC at Highland Park UMC in Dallas where they have served for 5 years. Charlie keeps his Bible by the bedside in Colorado and continues to be a prayer warrior, although he and Laura do not have a “church home”.
With Jim’s retirement, we reclaimed Tom Pace as our senior minister – with overwhelming gratitude that the Bishop would honor our wish to have him return to us. He had grown “outside” our walls, and we were elated to have his strong guidance as our congregation was melding with the changing times and needs of our Christian community. Tom began a tradition of clearly explaining membership commitments to new members with his personal “coffee with the pastor” gatherings. In addition, he instituted the small group concept; it has made a huge impact by bonding individuals into Living In Faith Together covenant groups. Our small groups are all about relationships – with God and with one another! A lesson for life…treasure and respect relationships.
Our family has benefited from the relationships afforded us by the ministers at SLUMC- it doesn’t seem like a HUGE church to us, even as our numbers have grown and our outreach has touched many hidden corners of our community…some ministries that originated on our doorstep and expanded to include other churches as increased needs were recognized as opportunities to serve Christ.
Through the years, our senior ministers have been joined by a wonderful band of associate ministers who challenge us to do more. Our congregation has also been blessed by an artfully assembled staff who keep the wheels turning smoothly at SLUMC. Not an easy task as we count three separate worship ministries – our main campus, our Gethsemane campus and the blossoming congregation of The Story Houston. Blessings and grateful thanks for the endless hours they dedicate to the mission of SLUMC – witnessing the love of Jesus Christ to others.
What joy it is to worship in this place with the consistent, faithful leadership we have experienced over our 57 year membership. It has been a place of learning and teaching, a refuge in times of sorrow and a joyous setting in times of celebration. A place we happily call our home, filled with family members from far and wide – there are no borders here, simply the desire to follow Christ in community with others.