Summer Grove United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, Blends Services, Hires Black Worship Leader

Worship leader Nolan Budgewater leads the praise through music at Shreveport's Summer Grove United Methodist Church on Sunday. (Photo: Stan Carpenter/The Times)
Worship leader Nolan Budgewater leads the praise through music at Shreveport’s Summer Grove United Methodist Church on Sunday.
(Photo: Stan Carpenter/The Times)

The Gospel stays the same, but sometimes while a neighborhood relearns who it is, that’s when a little shakeup goes a long way.

“Our church is slowly dying and in the last few years that death has come a little faster.”

That’s one reason Summer Grove United Methodist Church pastor Mark Bray said the church had no choice but to make changes.

“This church — when this part of Shreveport was a majority white neighborhood — thrived,” Bray said. “My father-in-law was a pastor here about 25 years ago when it was thriving.”

But with industries leaving and the neighborhood changing, Bray said the church started to die.

“We do not reflect the population of the neighborhood, which we learned … is about 60 to 40, white to African-American. And we have one African-American who comes on Sundays,” he said. “So that was a problem. We just need to be true to who our neighborhood is.”

So, in addition to blending its contemporary and traditional worship services, the church also hired a black worship leader.

“Was it intentional that we hired him because he is African-American? Not really,” Bray said. “I really contacted Nolan Budgewater to see if he knew anybody who could help us as a worship leader.”

But Budgewater was interested in the position himself.

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Source: The Times | Sherry P. Shephard, sshephard@gannett.com

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