Through the East End Missional Community, St. Paul’s UMC intertwines itself with the lives of more neighbors in the diverse city of Houston. As senior pastor Rev. Tommy Williams says, "It is one more way to go where the people are." Many in our congregation have been dreaming about and asking what exactly a missional community is and what it looks like for St. Paul’s context.
What is a missional community?
A missional community is comprised of a small number of people who commit themselves to rhythms of life together, physically living in the neighborhood in which they are serving. At its core, a missional community is relational.
Over the centuries, Christians (both lay and clergy) have been stirred by the Holy Spirit to order their lives around spiritual disciplines and focus their outward lives in mission and service. Many times, they have done so in communities of poverty, transition or outright desolation. In the last few decades, we have seen a new monasticism movement, but it is not really new at all. These missional communities in modern-day America––like The Simple Way in Philadelphia, Rutba House in Durham, North Carolina, or the Fondren Apartment Community in Houston––have reminded the world and the Church again of this intentional form of Christian living.
Who is leading this new ministry?
Our newest associate pastor, Rev. Paul Richards-Kuan, will spearhead this ministry endeavor. Paul comes to us this July, having lived and served in missional communities before. Paul and his spouse, Rev. Karyn Richards-Kuan, are currently looking for a house in the East End area. They’ll be moving into the neighborhood soon and getting to know people in the community.
Why the East End?
The historic East End has experienced major changes in recent years. With the departure or divestment of economic and social institutions, poverty has increased. Eighty percent of the residents in one quadrant of the area rent their homes, many ride a challenging public transit system, and neighborhood schools are underfunded. Many lack residency status in the United States and, with the threat of gentrification looming, a small, aging group is clinging to homes that have been in their families for generations.
St. Paul’s already has connections in the East End. Members of our church live and work there, including Diane Schenke who has been investing deeply in the area’s economic and social development. This fits perfectly with what we’ve discerned to be God’s vision for St. Paul’s to “embody the city’s diversity, inspire faith, and lead change for the common good of all peoples and communities.”
How can you be a part of what God is doing?
Rev. Paul Richards-Kuan encourages St. Paul’s to pray as this ministry finds its roots in the East End. “Prayer is always important,” Paul says, recommending the Collect for Purity of Heart (found below). St. Paul’s can also look forward to info sessions in the fall where Paul will share more details and field questions about next steps for the East End Missional Community.
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. – Collect for Purity of Heart