NTC Welcomes Market Street UMC To Conference
Chartering Service happens four — very quick — months after displaced and motivated congregants come together
On Dec. 4, 31 members of First UMC Mabank and First UMC Athens gathered in a music studio on Market Street in Mabank, Texas, to process their emotions following their congregations’ decisions to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. While pain and grief were present, the spirit in the room quickly turned to hope for the future, and before the group parted, they had dreams of a new United Methodist Church in the community.
Four short months later, on March 26, 77 charter members joined Market Street UMC as it was organized and welcomed into the North Texas Conference.
A laity-led movement
From the beginning, Market Street’s story has been driven by the laity, with leadership coming from among the congregants.
“I was floored by the passion and enthusiasm at that first meeting on Market Street,” said Rev. Dr. Owen Ross, director of the NTC Center for Church Development. “I told them ‘In my role as one who encourages and empowers our church planters, I am really uncomfortable saying this, but we have to slow down.’ ”
Rather than a group of disheartened exiles, Ross found himself that first night among a group of enthusiastic, Spirit-led United Methodists. Witnessing what was underway, he moved quickly to bring NTC resources to support the fledgling fellowship.
“In December, I issued the Market Street group a challenge,” Ross said. “I told them that the Center for Church Development (CCD) would match their giving dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000. Not only did they raise $15,000 before the year’s end – they blew past that initial goal and raised more than $42,000. And the giving hasn’t stopped.”
While they came from two churches in communities separated by about 19 miles, former members of First UMC Mabank and First UMC Athens found themselves among a new congregation who understood the difficult season they had weathered and the complicated emotions that brought.
The fellowship’s worshipping attendance continued to climb week after week. The group quickly outgrew the music studio, as well as its second temporary home at the Mabank Library. In January, the group moved into the former Eustace UMC building, which had been vacant for nearly three years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It really looked like the rapture had happened,” said John Loar, a lay member of Market Street UMC. “There were Bibles open on the table, boxes left out on the counter, food left in the refrigerator. It was just crazy. But that didn’t deter us. We came in and the group got together. The ladies polished up the pews; the men painted the whole inside, ran new piping. And it’s just been a wonderful experience.”
“We’ve put a lot of elbow grease and blood, sweat and tears into the building itself to get it ready,” said Mindy Sutton, a lay member of Market Street UMC. “But it really has been a blessing to be here. It’s hard not to see God's hand in this too. It was people from Athens and people from Mabank who combined to join this congregation, and Eustace happens to be halfway between those two communities. So it really was a godsend to have this facility that we’ve loved on and made our own.”
To support weekly services, the NTC enlisted retired Rev. Dr. Vic Casad to serve as the congregation’s interim pastor.
“When [my wife] Mary Brooke and I see people who know what’s happening here, they’ll say ‘Oh, you’re out in Mabank starting a new church,’ ” Casad said. “And I have to correct them, ‘No, we’re in Mabank watching a new church being started.’ This church start has been completely led by the laity, and we’re just glad to be present to witness it.”
Scenes from Chartering Service.
‘We’re still part of the connectional United Methodist Church … we have a foundation’
Market Street’s chartering service recognized its full connection to The United Methodist Church, establishing it as an official church within the North Texas Conference and changing its name from Market Street United Methodist Fellowship to Market Street United Methodist Church.
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. presided over the service, hosted at First Presbyterian Church in Mabank, with additional participation from Rev. Cassie Wade, district superintendent of the East District; Dr. Casad and Dr. Ross.
“For us, this chartering means we’re still part of the connectional United Methodist Church, that we have a foundation,” said lay member Andrea Pickens. “It’s invigorating and a huge opportunity, I think, for doing God’s work in the community that we serve.”
Even without a building to call their own, Market Street members have already begun rolling up their sleeves and serving the community. On March 25, for example, congregants completed projects at Celebrate Forever Families, including building a new playground at the domestic violence shelter.
Members Market Street UMC signing the guest book before the Chartering Service.
“Back in kids’ church, we learned that there’s a building, there’s a steeple, look inside and you got all the people,” Loar said. “We’ve found out that the stones and brick don’t mean anything – it’s the people. We’re back to the people again. So that’s been rewarding for us. It’s a real relief and a real joy and a real hope that yes, we’re going to be back together.”
And on that sunny March afternoon, a multi-generational congregation gathered to celebrate being together again in The United Methodist Church, as well as to establish their hopes for the future of Market Street UMC.
“This morning, we had our children play chimes in worship, and the song they had chosen to play was ‘We Are the Church,’” Sutton said. “It struck me how they are the future of the church. And there’s so much hope. This is really why we are creating this congregation – for them and for future generations to have a place where everyone is welcome and everyone feels the love of God.”
Market Street UMC currently meets in the former Eustace UMC building (401 Church Rd, Eustace, TX 75124). Sunday School meets at 9 a.m., followed by worship at 10 a.m.
Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2023