Hispanic congregation expands into new Morristown space

Hispanic congregation expands into new Morristown space

A growing Hispanic ministry in Morristown has moved into a new building, and those involved have great expectations for future growth.

In June 2006, the Rev. Arturo Reyna was appointed to the Morristown District from the Wytheville District where he had helped develop Holston's first chartered Hispanic church, De La Iglesia Puerta Del Cielo Metodista Unida (Door of Heaven UMC). Reyna started a new ministry at Liberty Hill UMC. The new congregation was later named Rios de Agua, or Rivers of Living Water.

The church has already outgrown Liberty Hill's facilities, with 85 in average Sunday morning attendance, and 30 more on Sunday evening.

"We have had as many as 130 people at a service," Reyna explained. "I really am surprised at how quickly the church has grown. I know God is able, and he did it all."

On Thanksgiving weekend, the Rios congregation moved into a building owned by First Morristown UMC. The Rev. Darris Doyal, senior pastor, explained that he has known Reyna for several years.

"Arturo and I have been friends for a long time," he said. "I have known him since the years I worked in congregational development for the conference."

When Reyna came to Morristown, Doyal's congregation was anxious to work with the Hispanic ministry. Twelve to 15 members from First Morristown assisted with the Rios congregation's first Vacation Bible School, Doyal said.

In early 2008, First Morristown purchased adjoining property and a 19,000-square-foot building known as "Cumberland Place" for $250,000, Doyal said.

"We needed the extra parking and we needed the extra space," said Doyal. "We then started exploring how to use the building."

A decision was made to allow the Rios de Agua congregation to share Cumberland Place with the Boy Scouts.

"We realized the building would be a great place for the ministry to relocate," he said. "They will have room to grow, and we expect them to grow. Their ministry will also be more visible and the community will have greater accessibility to the church."

The portion of the building used by Rios de Agua includes a sanctuary, classrooms, kitchen, fellowship hall, and office space. The congregation may also use the First Morristown gym and other facilities as needed.

In exchange, the Rios congregation has agreed to make a contribution to First Morristown's building fund "as they are led," Doyal said.

"We have a good partnership and relationship," said Doyal. "We're excited about the opportunity to work together."

"Our new sanctuary is about three times the size of the one we had at the other location," said Reyna. "We definitely needed the space."

Reyna estimates the new sanctuary can accommodate 250 to 300 people.

"Our goal is to fill the new building in a year," he said. "Then we'll think about buying our own place."

The Rev. Mickey Rainwater has served as Morristown District superintendent for a year and a half. In that time, he has been pleased with the growth and the ministry's success, he said.

"One of the things we've heard, but have not seen, is that with the recent economic downshift a lot of the jobs being filled by the Hispanic community are lost. Therefore, many people might be moving on to other locations," Rainwater said. "We don't know what the future holds, but we want to believe this ministry will continue to grow."

Rios de Agua should continue to grow with its more visible location and expanded space, Rainwater said.

"If it can be done, it will be done with Arturo's enthusiasm, energy, and excitement. And, if it is the Lord's will, the ministry will continue to grow," he said.

Kathy Barnes-Hemsworth is Lifestyles Editor for the Newport Plain Talk.