Amid the windswept plains of Amarillo, Texas, a transformational journey has unfolded for the United Methodist community.
In a landscape marked by shifting beliefs and denominational changes, the departure of seven United Methodist churches from the denomination left Amarillo without a home for those still committed to their Methodist faith.
This void, however, has not been met with resignation, but rather with a steadfast spirit of renewal, as the resilient members of the Amarillo United Methodist Church forge a new path.
The exodus of churches from the United Methodist denomination has been a process that stretched over years, complicated further by the unforeseen challenges of the COVID pandemic. The churches’ departure was largely influenced by disagreements surrounding issues of homosexuality and gender identity. As hundreds of churches across Texas and thousands across the nation opted to disaffiliate from the denomination, the landscape of faith in Amarillo was significantly altered.
Amid this upheaval, the reverberations of change spurred the emergence of a new congregation, Amarillo United Methodist Church. Led by the indomitable spirit of the Rev. Margie McNeir, an 83-year-old UMC minister who had retired but came out of retirement to lead this new endeavor, the church’s journey began. Alongside another retired pastor, McNeir gauged the interest of those who wished to remain aligned with the United Methodists. What started as a humble gathering in a senior living home quickly gained momentum.
From these modest beginnings, Amarillo United Methodist Church’s congregation grew, finding temporary shelter at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church. In June, their perseverance was officially recognized as they were chartered as a new United Methodist congregation. The foundation for this renewed faith community emerged from the legacy of Polk Street Methodist Church, a historical landmark renowned for its intricate architecture and a long-standing presence in Amarillo.
The departure of Polk Street Methodist from the UMC was a poignant moment for its dedicated members, including Gary Pitner, a congregant for 57 years. Pitner, like many, experienced the process as a deeply painful one, as cherished relationships and the comfort of tradition were left behind. The emergence of Amarillo United Methodist Church became an oasis of continuity, offering a new beginning for those who remained committed to their Methodist beliefs.
The growth of Amarillo United Methodist Church has been remarkable, drawing in over 150 attendees to its services, with a significant portion being under the age of 60. The congregation’s vitality is not only found in its numbers but in its shared sense of purpose and the willingness of its members to contribute. Rev. Robert Burke, who joined the church this summer, notes that the eagerness of the congregation to serve and embrace their gifts is a testament to their resilience and their dedication to their faith.
As the church continues to evolve, it is not without its challenges. Merging the identities of different congregations while creating a new one requires time, patience and a commitment to unity. Members of Amarillo United Methodist Church are navigating a complex process of healing and growth, mourning the buildings and relationships left behind while eagerly contributing to the creation of a renewed spiritual community.
In the midst of this journey, Amarillo United Methodist Church embodies the spirit of transformation. It serves as a beacon of hope for those who seek to reconcile their faith with the changes that life presents. Their story resonates as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of faith to guide communities through periods of upheaval and renewal.
Shawn A. Akers is the online editor at Charisma Media.
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