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University United Methodist, Houston, Texas, USA
Dr Rohr Schalmei.
University United Methodist, Houston, Texas, USA.
A traditional Georgian colonial red brick church, with white
steeple and colonnaded porch. Begun in 1934 as an outreach Sunday
school class of St Paul's United Methodist Church, the chapel
and educational building were completed in late 1939, and the
sanctuary in 1952. The Christian Life Center, which includes
a gymnasium and additional Sunday school classroom space, was
completed in 1995. A lovely courtyard with black wrought iron
gates is outside just to the right of the sanctuary front doors.
The building seems well maintained, with easy on-street parking
and easy access from the street.
The congregation seems to be a nice mixture of long-established
older folks and young families with children. Their numerous
ministries and programs are all well documented on their website.
Of special note is Emmaus, a program designed "to inspire,
challenge, and equip local church members for Christian action
in their homes, churches, and places of work." They also
conduct student ministries at nearby Rice University and the
University of Houston. There are three services each Sunday:
one in the chapel consisting of hymn singing, scripture readings,
a children's sermon, and a traditional sermon; another in the
sanctuary -- a contemporary service called The Well, combining
music, scripture, a message, and multi-media presentations in
a less formal setting; and a traditional morning worship service
in the sanctuary that includes anthems sung by choir. On the
first Sunday of the month, holy communion is offered at all
West University, also known as West University Place or simply
"the Place," is an independent municipality within
the city of Houston, named with reference to nearby Rice University.
This is one of the most desirable and affluent parts of the
Houston area. The city was formed in 1924 when Houston declined
to extend electric power lines that far from city center. In
1939, when Houston reconsidered its decision, West University
Place elected to remain independent. After World War II, quaint
bungalow-type houses were built along the city's pleasant, tree-lined
streets. But most of these have been torn down and replaced
by modest-sized brick monstrosities.
The Revd Mark B. Woodward, senior pastor, conducted the service,
with the opening welcome and announcements given by the Revd
Kimberley Orr, associate pastor.
The date & time:
Sunday, December 14, 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Traditional Morning Worship. On this particular date, the chancel
choir was presenting its special holiday music, John Rutter's
Magnificat, in place of the sermon.
How full was the building?
The pews were comfortably full, a mixture of young and old people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Upon walking up the front steps, I was greeted by three very
nice people, the official greeters for the day, I assumed. They
asked me if I was a visitor and made me feel most welcome. After
entering the front door, I was greeted by an usher who handed
me a service bulletin.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very cushy Protestant padded pews. Most comfortable for sitting
but deadly for acoustics in the sanctuary.
How would you describe the pre-service
A manageable level of pre-service chit-chat, nothing too out of the box. Although people were speaking to each other, they seemed to find their places and calm down a bit when the organ prelude began, which was nice.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, and welcome to West University United Methodist
What books did the congregation use during the
Service leaflet and hymnal. Pew Bibles were in the racks, but
I didn't see anyone use them.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and brass.
Did anything distract you?
Oh YES! The service was a wonderful experience except for the
single mother and her two children seated down the pew from
me. They arrived after I did, and we smiled and spoke before
the service. The remainder of my time sharing a pew with them
was a whirlwind of coloring books and crayons (their own stash,
not just single sheets provided by the church), action figures,
toy cars, etc. Before the service began, I had filled out my
visitor's card and laid it on the cushion beside me to turn
in at the offertory. When I went to retrieve it, I noticed one
of the demons down the pew had stolen it and was drawing on
the back of it with a crayon. Finally, after the offertory,
in the middle of the service, I picked up my things and moved
across to the other side of the aisle. The senior pastor and
his family were seated behind me and saw me move. I wound up
sitting with some older ladies on the other side, and we enjoyed
the choir's special music. (And my nerves were better sitting
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship style was traditional and fairly formal but not stuffy. There seemed to be multiple opportunities for welcoming people before and during the service; I remember thinking, "Haven't we already done this?"
Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon (thank God) because of the special choir presentation. God smiled upon me this day.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
I remember being especially moved by the obvious hard work the
chancel choir had done in preparing this special music. As I
looked around the sanctuary, I wondered if the formality of
the piece (sung all in Latin) was a little over-the-heads of
the congregation. But they all seemed to soak it in pretty well
and were impressed and thankful for their choir's hard work.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
In my entire life I have never gotten up in the middle of a
service and moved away from people, and I was actually
a little embarrassed to do so. However, with the flurry of crayons
and toys down the pew from me, I had had enough at that point
and didn't care what people thought. (I have wondered all this
time what the pastor and his family thought about me moving
– did he even realize why I did?)
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The nice old ladies spoke to me after the service and welcomed
How would you describe the after-service
There was no after-church fellowship time. The choir were all heading to a choir member's house for their choir Christmas party brunch, so I just spoke to people and then we all left.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 This was a special occasion, but I'd like to return
for the traditional service on another Sunday. Although I prefer
receiving holy communion each Sunday, I still identify my faith
tradition as Methodist. However, if the traditional service
regularly includes crayons, action figures and unruly children,
I'll be out the door and down the street looking elsewhere.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. As a church musician myself, I empathized well with the
gift of music the choir and instrumentalists presented to the
church on this day.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Action figures and coloring books and toy cars!
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