Sunday, April 08, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 8

Bering Celebrates its Centennial April 11, 1948

April 11, 1948 was a day of celebration and remembrance at Bering Methodist Church in Houston. The celebration was occasioned by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the "German Congregation" by the Rev. Charles Goldberg. A considerable German population lived in Houston of the 1840s as merchants, laborers, and artisans. Methodist preachers had found receptive Germans in Cincinnati, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Mobile so that German language Methodist literature was available.

The German Congregation grew so that before the Civil War it was able to erect its own building at the corner of Milam and McKinney. By this time it was part of the German District of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. After the Civil War the "northern" church or MEC made a considerable effort to attract German MECS churches back to the "Mother Church." Bering did not affiliate with the MEC. (Upon merger in 1939 only three MECS historically German churches were part of the Texas Annual Conference--Bering, Beneke, and East Bernard. Most of the MECS German churches became part of the West (now Southwest) Texas Conference.)

In 1911 the congregation adopted the name Bering Memorial in honor of Conrad and August Bering, two stalwarts of the church. In the 1920's Bering moved to the corner of Harold and Mulberry. It was in that relatively new sanctuary that the 1948 celebration was held.

Bering' preacher in 1948 was the Rev. (later Bishop) Eugene Slater. The resident bishop, A. Frank Smith, lived only a short distance away. He was invited to preach the centennial sermon. An afternoon of historical programs followed, and the celebration was concluded with a a pageant at 7:30 p.m.

It was a grand event, but as Bering entered its second century, it faced considerable challenges. The 1920's relocation had been to a residential neighborhood. Would its location off a major thoroughfare limit its growth? Bering had traditionally depended upon its German families for leadership. Would its German family heritage be another limiting factor? Only a few years before some of Bering's most faithful members had left to help start St. Luke's. Would Bering be able to replace those leaders?

The ensuing years have shown that Bering was able to face those challenges by embracing a vision of a social service ministry on the cutting edge of living the Gospel. It values its heritage as one of the first "ethnic minority" churches in Texas, but more importantly it looks for imaginative ways "to serve the present age." I invite you to learn more at


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