...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wheeler Avenue Baptist Reviewed

Wheeler Avenue, Houston
Located in the Third Ward of Houston, and adjacent to both the main campus of University of Houston and Texas Southern,  Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church's worship is an experience of infusion with joy. I visited this vibrant church at a recent 1:00 PM Sunday worship. It was upon the invitation of the Lawson family, and Bill Lawson, who, as pastor, founded this church in 1960's.

 Wheeler Avenue has four services that run pretty close together, and there seemed to be real efficiency in getting folks in and out of the parking lot and main building. Upon driving in, I was greeted and told to hang out in my car, and a space would open soon, and it did. As I made my way up to the main entrance, I was guided to the real entrance, where I waited in line for a short time before going into the sanctuary. 

I was one of the very few over 50 in this gathering of mostly African Americans under 40, and many were in the 20's.  A few  parents brought their young children with them. The time, however, caters to students and young career folks, many of whom are single.

The church as a campus is very functional, not ornate or sprawling, comfortable. The worship center was full on the first floor. Arriving early, while I had my choice, I took a seat near the back. With balcony and main floor, the capacity is probably somewhere around 850. I was told that all four services are full most of the time. The bulletin I received was a calendar on both sides, with the announcements on the sanctuary screens. Announcements were made by the Senior Pastor.

The worship was exciting to say the least. The music was driving and upbeat, and top notch. The band and choir change somewhat for each service, and I recognized Hanq Neal as the music director and one of the lead vocalists. The choir and soloists were dynamite, and the opening singing reached out and grabbed me and didn't let go until I was fully present- body, mind, spirit, and voice-  in worship! 

The aspect of welcome was strong throughout, reiterated by both pastors present. I felt that my time and energy were valued and not taken for granted. The folks on my row and ushers were friendly, knowledgeable, and spoke to me without my having to speak to them. At one point the first time guests were asked to stand and the Associate Pastor Alex Johnson and those around us greeted each one of the first time guests personally. Pretty cool.

I was wondering if the preacher, Senior Pastor, Dr. Marcus Cosby, who looks to be in his 40's would have much left for this, the fourth of his sermons. Cosby seemed more fresh and energetic than most preachers would be on the first or second time.

The sermon on stewardship, was masterful, maybe the best I heard on the topic. It was grace-filled, not moralistic or guilt ridden, not easy to achieve when talking about managing money. it also wasn't prosperity gospel.  One of the points made: it's not about our trusting God to bless us, but rather, it's about God trusting us with the blessings God has already given us. If you like what he did, a guest can come back for Cosby's Bible Study Wednesday evenings. Or access his other sermons off their website.
By reputation, Wheeler Avenue leads other churches in service with its community. The church recently acquired a nearby center through its non-profit, and plans to make it a main hub for serving their closest neighbors and community, the Third Ward of Houston. A day of service and refurbishing is planned there on MLK Day, January 20, 2014.

I was lifted when I left this church. I would have to say that that the 1:00 PM worship time fits this pastor's schedule and I may be back sooner than later. It's apparently a great time for the younger crowd. Too, I enjoyed recording some of my experiences on their YELP site for guests, and I found their main website to be very helpful with directions, and loaded with apps of all kinds. All services are streamed live. 

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