Faith UMC plans open house
Although the parking lot is paved, a good deal of mud and not much grass can be seen from the windows of Faith United Methodist Church. 

Inside one can hear the sounds of drilling and hammering, with some areas completed and others under construction. The place is 8608 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange, and grass is the least of Pastor Kevin Kissel’s worries or those of his wife Karen. 

The grass will grow; that’s the easy part. As 2010 approaches, the congregation’s main focus is to grow the church and its new multipurpose facility while maintaining already-established programs and creating new ones.

A common misperception might be that Faith moved because of Hurricane Ike. In fact, the congregation had agreed to move before the storm.

In 2006, Faith UMC was the result of a merger between two Methodist churches – St. John and Park Avenue. It was based in West Orange at the old St. John campus.

“At that time we decided we were going to relocate,” Kevin Kissel says. “To form a new church with a new vision and do greater ministry. Before the merger, there were five Methodist churches in Orange – all of them on the south side of I-10, so we took the two and brought them together, then brought the one out to the north side to try to meet the needs of the people out here.

“At the time Ike hit, we’d already sold the property on Western Avenue. We were worshipping at Little Cypress Intermediate for 18 months. That was a challenging time. We brought church in a trailer every week, opened up the back door, set up to worship then broke it down and hauled it off for another week. That took a lot of commitment from a lot of people.”

Church officials expect the membership of 130 to grow. “We’re already talking about expanding the parking area,” Kissel says.

While the focus in 2006-07 was on the merger, Karen Kissel says the new priority is reaching new people in the community. The MLK church features modern architecture and artwork, even a “coffeehouse” area where people can read, relax or worship.

“We’re looking for ways to step out of the norm,” she says. “We’re trying to make worship something that’s more appealing to a wider variety of people.”

“Right now,” Kevin says, “We have one worship service that combines some of the old traditional hymns along with new music. Next year we might expand to two services – one of each type of music – and members can attend the one they choose.”

Churchgoers first held services at the new location on Dec. 20. An open house is set from 1-5 p.m. Jan. 9 featuring snacks and refreshments, door prizes and tours of the building, which includes a Family Life Center, rooms for youth meetings (most with interactive video screens, computers and games) support groups and a nursery. A ribbon-cutting is planned at 4 p.m. Jan. 4.

Kevin adds, “We’re interested in starting new ministries … either new ones or if they’re already in place somewhere else, we’d be glad to house them here. With the way the economy is now one of the things we want to do is have a ‘financial peace’ seminar to help some of the young people or even our seniors to get out of debt or take control of their finances.” A senior citizens’ support group is also planned along with continuing Faith’s popular children’s ministry.

“It was difficult getting here,” he says. “But there have been things which occurred along the way that we could not have gotten past without God getting us past it. People here are confident in what God can do and they truly believe we are here because God got us here.”

Faith UMC’s Web site is