The Merger of Two Historic African-American UMCs Brings Forth A New Place for New People to Worship in Waco, Texas
by Dr. Jerry Roberson* and J. Vance Morton**
Photos by Tammy Lindley*** (click on any of the below to enlarge)
An air of anticipation and expectancy more commonly associated with kids at Christmas or two people going on their first date greeted those who entered the historic worship space at 1005 La Salle Avenue in Waco, Texas – a worship space that had been transformed with many of the modern accoutrements consistent with a new worship space. Church members and guests were welcomed by greeters and ushers sporting new uniforms that featured the branding of the new church. The level of excitement began to rise as the choir was seated with smiles and voices ready to sings shouts of joy to the Lord.
And then, on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, the clock struck 10:30 a.m. and One Fellowship United Methodist Church
officially launched its mission to offer the one hope found in Jesus Christ to and for all the people of Waco, Texas and beyond.
Rev. Bryan Dalco
welcomed everyone present to celebrate the launching of One Fellowship through worship, including Bishop Mike Lowry, Grammy-nominated recording artist Brian Courtney Wilson
and other special guests from the Central Texas Conference, and then the praise and worship began and flowed with the energy and excitement of a fresh beginning.
When Pastor Dalco proclaimed “You're worth fighting for!” those gathered to celebrate the official launch of the Central Texas Conference’s most recent New Church Start knew they were witnessing the beginnings of a vital and vibrant faith community.
What they probably didn’t know was just how long and winding a road it had been to get to that point of jubilant celebration. One Fellowship is a new church start with its roots stemming from two historic African-American United Methodist Churches that made the courageous and faith-filled choice to merge so that they could better serve their mission field.
A Journey of Courage and Faith
“We have been working on the merger of these two churches for nearly three years,” recalled Rev. Gary Lindley, executive director for the Smith Center of Evangelism & Church Growth
.” It began with [then] Central District Superintendent Don Scott bringing the leadership of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and Bracks United Methodist Church to the table to consider a
merger and to commit to seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit.”
Once the wheels were set in motion, to say it was a smooth ride would be pushing the limits of the Ninth Commandment
. “Overall, I think things have proceeded quite miraculously under the circumstances,” Pastor Dalco reflected. “When this process began, neither church really was in agreement to coming together to start a new church. However, after much prayer and a lot of effort in directing everyone to God, we were able to unite as one.”
“This is not my first time doing a new church start,” Bryan said. “It's an extremely challenging work when you have to completely develop everything from ground up. Both churches had to officially be dissolved and complete all of the necessary steps to become a single church—a new church.”
“This work is not for everyone. You truly have to be called into it, because nothing really ever goes according to our plans, but they do go according to God's,” Bryan continued. “The name, One Fellowship, is indicative of what has happened here; and, is indicative of the ministry that is being developed. It speaks volumes to the quality of those serving in leadership and the passion of the entire body of believers.”
A New Faith Community Born
From its inception, One Fellowship has worked to offer a liberating worship experience where each person can encounter God. The worship team strives to provide what Pastor Dalco calls a "relaxed but spirit-filled encounter that’s exciting, authentic and empowering.” Besides meeting and exceeding those goals, the launch service also offered a refreshing glimpse into things to come as the worship spaced filled with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. From the pulpit, Bishop Lowry remarked, “What a beautiful sight to behold. This is a special day. Brothers and sisters from various backgrounds worshiping our God, side-by-side. Worshiping with the excitement and the eagerness of a young babe craving life; and, life more abundant. What a beautiful sight to behold indeed.”
One of the many highlights of the day was the witness brought forth via song and spoken word by Grammy-nominated, Dove
and Stella Award
winning recording artist Brian Courtney Wilson. As he centered his message around the title track from his album Worth Fighting For
, the congregation sang with him and attested to the faith journey that the launching of One Fellowship has brought forth.
Pastor Dalco delivered a powerful message focused on Failure to Launch
. “In order to receive what God has for you, you have to leave some things behind,” Bryan stated. “There are things before you to reach for, to strive toward. God is calling you as an individual. God is calling you as a body of believers. God is calling you as a new church. What God has for us, is greater than what we think we can obtain on our own.”
The zenith of worship saw 20 people coming forward for prayer followed by nine people joining the One Fellowship community of faith in membership, including four professions of faith.
Following the service, Rev. Lindley claimed the journey from inception to launch to be “…an amazing experience. "
"Pastor Dalco and the team at One Fellowship did a fantastic job,” Gary beamed. “Few mergers truly work, but this one isn’t just succeeding, it’s flourishing. This church is going to have a huge impact on this community. Truly a new faith community has been born.”
One Fellowship’s Pastor Dalco gleamed with joy as he reflected on the day. “One of the things that I learned from today is that we are ready to be a diverse church to meet the needs of a diverse community. That is what God is calling the body of One Fellowship to do. We are excited and are committed. God is still performing miracles. I see it in this church and across this community all the time.”
*Jerry is the Church Transformation Coach & Consultant for the Central Texas Conference. firstname.lastname@example.org
**Vance is the Director of Communications & IT for the Central Texas Conference. email@example.com
***Tammy is the Center Administrator for the Smith Center for Evangelism & Church Growth / District Administrator for the New Church Start District. firstname.lastname@example.org