Oklahoma City ‘inclusive’ church celebrates first anniversary
Mosaic United Methodist Church — a new congregation created from two churches that merged to improve their opportunities to serve — this summer celebrated the first anniversary of its ministry.
Celebrating began Sunday morning, June 5, when about 130 members and friends gathered to worship in the Angie Smith Chapel on the campus of Oklahoma City University.
"The overarching mission of Mosaic UMC is to celebrate and proclaim the inclusive love of God for all people," said the Rev. Jim Gragg, a retired United Methodist minister who was part of the months-long planning that led to two Oklahoma City neighborhood churches — Epworth and Leland Clegg — merging to create Mosaic.
Gragg, a former district superintendent, said sometimes churches merge to improve their chances to survive, but Epworth and Clegg merged to be more effective.
"Members of both congregations believed that by uniting their people and other resources they could be a more faithful and effective messenger and agent of God than either congregation could ever be alone," Gragg said.
Epworth and Clegg were nearly 9 miles apart, but Gragg said the two congregations were next-door neighbors in ways that matter most: their mission and values.
"Both Clegg and Epworth had historically encouraged diversity, nourished social action and supported issues of justice and mercy."
The two congregations merged June 1, 2015, and worshipped together for the first time on Sunday, June 7, 2015. Under the leadership of District Superintendent Rockford Johnson, Mosaic was chartered September 16, 2015, with 160 members.
The Rev. Scott Spencer, Mosaic’s pastor, pointed out that Clegg was one of the first racially integrated United Methodist churches in Oklahoma City and had several care ministries.
Outreach and inclusivity
Epworth, an inner-city church, for decades had extensive ministries to people in need, especially to youth. Since 1996, Epworth has been a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a grass-roots organization that seeks full participation in the church for LGBTQ persons.
Epworth was housed in a building that was once part of a Methodist college that became Oklahoma City University, which is still a United Methodist-related school. The building was too large and too expensive for the Epworth congregation to maintain — one reason the congregation began exploring other options. That exploration led to the merger with the Clegg congregation, which was also eager to expand and enhance its ministry.
After the Epworth and Clegg congregations merged and formed Mosaic, the new congregation selected Lacy Kelly, who had been a member of Epworth, to chair their administrative council, and Eric Brown, who had been a member of Clegg, to be their lay leader. Both represented Mosaic at the 2016 Oklahoma Annual Conference, and both are training to be United Methodist lay servants.
Kelly said she grew up “in a pretty conservative United Methodist church, but I also grew up in a very liberal household.” After struggling to find a church that fit her social beliefs, she gave up and stopped going for years before her neighborhood association held a meeting at Epworth.
“I went to Epworth and everyone welcomed me,” she said. “I saw they were involved in homeless ministry and in missions to people with special needs and they were wrestling with justice issues. It really spoke to me. I was able to connect with this faith community in a way that I had not been able to before."
Brown said he grew up in Clegg.
"I had known Clegg people all of my life, and knew they were very good people, with good hearts, always wanting to do something, to fix what was wrong."
A natural fit
Brown said during the merger talks, he came to know many members of Epworth and discovered they were a lot like Clegg members. He says the fit could not have been any more natural as far as the merger was concerned.
"I saw right away that they were open-minded, didn't mind accepting new ideas or new people,” he said. "There's no sense of, 'OK, we've merged now, I'll tolerate it.' Instead, it's, 'We are all together in this now. We can get more done.' "
Sunday worship services are being held temporarily at Oklahoma City University. Wednesday vesper services and other weekday activities are at the former home of Clegg. But Spencer pointed out that the ministries of Mosaic reach far beyond its building to people who are homebound, homeless and others who need physical, emotional, and spiritual care.
Spencer said people of the two congregations have meshed well, with no major obstacles.
"We consider Mosaic to be a union of like-minded people,” he said. “By like-minded, I don't mean that everyone is on the same page on every issue. But we are like-minded in the sense that we are all working together for the same mission, which is to proclaim and practice the belief that God loves all God's children."
Brown said the most important thing Mosaic does is welcome into its membership people who have not been welcome in other churches because of race, sexual orientation or other reasons.
“I had not been to church since I was 7 years old,” said Sam Nicolosi, who is now in his fifties and came out as gay in adulthood. “I was always looking for a church, but I didn’t find one where I felt welcomed and included. But now I’ve found it. I’m home at Mosaic.”
Spencer says Mosaic, a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network, is not a single-issue church, but takes seriously the United Methodist philosophy of Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors.
In June 2016, Mosaic's vision team presented this proposed mission statement at a church-wide retreat: "The purpose of Mosaic is to welcome all to experience the radical love of God, as together we create a beautiful community of justice, compassion and faith."
Spencer said he is humbled and honored to be Mosaic’s pastor, adding, "I look forward to being a part of the future God has in store for this new Christian community in Oklahoma City."
An ordained United Methodist minister, Bowdon directed communications for the Oklahoma Conference for 24 years. In retirement, he writes inspirational articles and books.
News media contact: Vicki Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-742-5400.