In the early 1960’s a group of NASA folks and others started a new church in southeast Houston called Sagemont Presbyterian Church. That was the beginning of a resilient congregation that has come to be known as A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, a Covenant Network congregation and one of the hosting congregations for this year’s conference in November.
Why resilient? This congregation has weathered the oil business bust of the 1980’s that brought an economic depression; a chemical dump-site a few miles from church property that turned into a superfund cleanup site that hit the neighborhood hard with the bull-dozing of 700 homes and an elementary school; and last spring the total destruction of their forty-year-old church building by fire – an arson.
Some time after the disintegration of the neighborhood from the cleanup site and the dwindling of the congregation from 300 to about 30, the remaining members got together for a period of discernment and had a vision of becoming a church of “radical hospitality”….and then they got to work. This remnant congregation focused on the environment, turning their acreage into a congregational organic garden. They totally remodeled their church surroundings, “de-institutionalizing” and creating, instead, warm welcoming “home” spaces which gave them a new ministry as retreat hosts. During this time they also organized a Servant Leadership School, an ecumenical seminary for the priesthood of all believers which has provided deep sharing and personal and group growth for its participants over the years. Members of Servant-Savior opened their hearts as well, becoming both the first More Light Presbyterians congregation and Covenant Network congregation in their presbytery. It was, of course, a natural extension of that vision of “radical hospitality” to welcome GLBT persons.
And now, six months after the fire, they are still a “mustard seed” church, meeting in a school and looking forward to soon having a temporary building back on their home land. A building committee is working toward design of a permanent structure. There continues to be an emphasis on environmental stewardship as 3-1/2 of their 5 acres is dedicated to green space, and a congregational garden is once again being re-envisioned. The current Servant Leadership School is in session and participants are studying Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen. The annual Christmas Basket program – a 20+ year outreach – is being planned to once again, with the help of the greater community, feed 72 families for a week.
Rev Alan Brehm is pastor of Servant-Savior and describes the congregation as “the healthiest, most joyful, most rewarding group of people” he has ever served. As you can imagine, the loss of their church home has been stressful, but as Rev Brehm explained there is and always has been so much joy in worship at Servant-Savior that it is hard to walk away on Sunday without a smile on your face.
If you are coming to the annual conference in Houston, you will have a chance to meet some of the members from Servant-Savior and they would like to invite any who are staying in Houston for the weekend to worship with them on Sunday, November 7, as they welcome the visit of Rev. Janie Spahr.
A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church has a Facebook Page and their profile says, “we are not a small church, but a big family”. Take a look at the pictures…..and the smiles!