He said Christ United Methodist, 1006 NE 17, once was a flourishing church in a neighborhood near the state Capitol, but the congregation dwindled when most of the members of the predominantly white residential area fled to the suburbs as their schools and neighborhoods were integrated in the 1960s. Like the neighborhood surrounding it, the inner-city church is now predominantly black, Vanzant said.
Christ became a mission church of the much larger St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 222 NW 15, a few years ago when the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference renewed its commitment to seeing the urban ministry thrive and grow. Vanzant became the church's senior pastor in December 2011.
Vanzant said a church consultant recommended the name change to help reflect its changing dynamics. He said a church committee helped whittle name choices from more than 20 to five and then three before the new moniker was selected.
“This is a process of rebranding it as we understand ourselves to be something different as a church and ministry. And we want to be relevant,” he said.
Vanzant said in addition to the new name, the congregation set up new ministry teams that will be working on several projects and programs designed to reach out to the surrounding neighborhood and community.
He said an outdoor sign proclaiming the church's new name is coming soon.
People's Church, known for several years as one of the fastest-growing churches in the metro, is set to open a satellite in the building that housed the Express Event Center.
Josh Brown, the church's executive pastor, said work on the new People's Church Northwest will begin soon, with plans for extensive remodeling of the building at 8512 Northwest Expressway. Brown said church leaders estimate the project will be completed by late spring or summer. He said the church will send a core group of staff and congregation members to help launch the new satellite.
The church's main campus is at 800 E Britton Road. It launched its first satellite, People's Church Midwest City, in 2011 in a former movie theater.
Brown said the northwest location was chosen for several reasons.
“We felt like it was a highly populated area and a growing area of town,” he said. “We're just excited about it and glad to get this going so we can see more lives change. That's really the heart of this.”
Help for healing
The Oklahoma Conference of Churches has hired a new director of emotional care in response to the tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma in May 2013.
The Rev. William Tabbernee, executive director, said the Rev. Mary Hughes Gaudreau took the post effective Jan. 2. She is an ordained United Methodist minister and a licensed professional counselor who has more than 20 years experience counseling disaster victims including individuals affected by the Oklahoma City bombing and the Oklahoma tornadoes in 1999, 2003 and last year.
Gaudreau's position was made possible through a grant from the United Way of Central Oklahoma, Tabbernee said.
“Whether or not they realize it, many, if not all, of those who survived the May tornadoes and floods need long-term emotional and spiritual care as well as financial and physical support to get their lives back in order,” Tabbernee said.
In addition to her efforts in Oklahoma, Gaudreau gained experience on a national level as a consultant for the United Methodist Committee on Relief and was involved in the responses to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and other hurricanes; the 2011 Alabama tornadoes; and the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn. Gaudreau also served as chairman of the writing group for the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee's “Disaster Spiritual Care Guidelines.”