Windsor Village builds a new social landscapeLatest News Friday, March 18th, 2011
By Kathy L. Gilbert
When the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell was appointed to Windsor Village United Methodist Church in 1982, there were about “25 faithful members” in the pews on Sunday.
The neighborhood was underserved, underdeveloped and full of blight.
“After the bishop told me I was coming here, I peered through the front door, and I saw pill bugs, and I saw cobwebs. And I saw a Lawrence Welk organ. And I saw a pulpit and a piece of the microphone and a cross. And I thought, ‘That’s all we need,’” said Caldwell, who is now senior pastor of the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States.
Windsor Village now has a membership of more than 18,000. The neighborhood has grown from blight to a mini-city with a housing development, shopping, fast-food restaurants, medical facilities, schools, a YMCA and the 190,000-square-foot Kingdom Builders Center with a sanctuary inside.
To Caldwell and members of Windsor Village, this 234-acre community — Pointe 2.3.4 — is the result of what happens when love meets needs.
“I remember very clearly Pastor Caldwell talking about developing the 234-acre vision, and being able to build a community for affordable housing. And I thought that was just phenomenal,” said Millicent Haynes, director of ministries and a long-time church member.
“You see children going to school, folks going to work, people living in nice houses … you see health-care facilities open to the least, the last and the lost … this is what God said we should do in the book of Genesis,” Caldwell said.
Turn at the intersection of South Post Oak and West Omen in central southwest Houston, and it looks like any other busy corner in a large city. A CVS pharmacy, Walgreens, Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Advance Auto Center flank both sides of the entrance.
The first clue that this is no ordinary neighborhood is the name of the subdivision: Corinthian Pointe.
Corinthian Pointe is a residential area with 462 low- to moderately-priced houses. When Corinthian Pointe was built five years ago, the median price for homes was $90,000 to $110,000. The market value has now risen about 30 percent.
Lining streets with names like “Miracle Lane,” “Faith” and “Majesty” are rows of neatly manicured lawns and driveways full of cars, trucks and kids’ bikes. There are almost no “for sale” signs, and no homeowners are in foreclosure, Caldwell said.
Most of the people living here are first-time homeowners who received financial counseling from Windsor Village before purchasing their homes. A.B. Harris and his wife, Menchie, moved into Corinthian Pointe four years ago because they were looking for a quiet, centrally located community with new homes.
“We had no idea that it was a neighborhood developed by the church,” he said. “Menchie and I looked at a few other communities, but this one just felt right.” Likewise, the Harrises — with three boys aged 2, 8 and 10 — were not members of Windsor Village when they first arrived.
“We visited and enjoyed the worship experience. It began with dynamic praise and worship and continued through the preached word,” said Harris of their decision to become members. Considering the church’s commitment to community development and to families, Harris, who is also director of media production at the Kingdom Builders’ Center, felt that Windsor “is where we needed to be.”
Part of the kingdom
Caldwell said he knows some folks might view the massive project as “an extracurricular activity relative to the Bible,” but he views it as part of the Wesleyan spirit. He also sees it as evangelism because it has generated a lot of enthusiasm from people in Houston.
The housing development is about 45 percent Hispanic. “Back in the day, they said black and brown folk, especially middle-class, couldn’t live together,” Caldwell said. “And they do it with joy and thanksgiving right there in Corinthian Pointe.”
In addition to the subdivision, there is also Corinthian Village, a 121-unit independent-living facility for older adults. Texas Children’s Pediatrics, located in a cluster of retail and medical clinics, offers services for children regardless of their parents’ ability to pay.
Jean Hines Caldwell Elementary School — named for Caldwell’s mother — serves 750 children in the subdivision and surrounding area.
The YMCA is the first built in a predominantly African-American community in Houston in 50 years.
Future plans include a prayer center and new sanctuary. When everything is complete, its projected value will be more than $173 million and will generate more than 400 permanent jobs.
But this massive undertaking is just one of 75 active ministries ongoing at Windsor Village.
“The range of ministries is numerous, and they are designed to meet any needs that we have within the congregation,” said Haynes. There is an ongoing monthly recruiting effort through the new membership class and an annual ministry fair that issues a call for action for all members of the congregation to get connected to the life of the church, she said.
“Pastor Caldwell reminds us all the time that sheep beget sheep,” she said. “We make it a priority to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”
Caldwell said he has heard some pastors make fun of churches with a lot of ministries. “I heard one pastor refer to a church as ‘Six Flags Over Jesus.’” But both Jesus and John Wesley had a “pretty cool, diversified ministry,” he said.
“Not only is the spirit of Jesus still alive and well, but the spirit of Wesley is alive and well because Wesley was a great spiritual entrepreneurial leader. And when I grow up, I want to be like him.”
Kathy L. Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, TN. For complete story visit www.umns.com.