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Haitian migrants bring vitality to declining church (UM News)

by the Rev. Gustavo Vasquez
Nov. 9, 2021 | SAN DIEGO

At the beginning of this century, the Rev. Bill Jenkins did not imagine that he would see a deep transformational process in the congregation that he was starting to serve.

Jenkins had been appointed pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in 1999 in San Diego, and for 12 years, he had worked hard to revitalize a declining church.

“The first six years, we tried to grow the church in the old Billy Graham way: revivals, knocking on doors and all of that. The harder that we worked, the smaller the church got,” he said.

In 2005, he told the congregation, “If we don’t do something different, you know what could happen: The church will be closed, the property sold, and you know that movie.”

The decision to change the church ministry model affected attendance significantly. “In 2011 — the last Sunday that I preached in the old congregation — we had around 35 people in attendance. Now, during the pre-pandemic days, we had around 2,000 people a week,” Jenkins said.

Even amid the pandemic, more than 1,000 people meet every week in the building. Sunday worship alone draws about 300 people to the 10 racially and denominationally diverse congregations hosted in the United Methodist Christ Ministry Center.