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Windsor Village models diversity

 
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7:00 A.M. EST March 17, 2011 | HOUSTON (UMNS)



The Rev. Kimberly Orr takes part in a spirited Bible study at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
The Rev. Kimberly Orr takes part in a spirited Bible study at Windsor Village
United Methodist Church in Houston. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
View in Photo Gallery

The Rev. Kimberly Orr’s creative contribution to the evening prayer class was her rendition of a Bob Dylan classic.

Strumming her guitar, singing in a gritty, bluesy voice, she belted out “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” to the delight of the participants in her Prayer and the Arts class at Windsor Village United Methodist Church. She was teaching them to “pray the word and will of God in creative expression.”

She was also modeling the kind of ministry she wants to see blossom.

As the first white pastor at the predominantly African-American church, Orr is making her own way with the blessings of the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell and the 18,000-plus members who make up the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States.

She remembers well what Caldwell said to the congregation last summer, when he introduced her for the first time.

“He said, ‘You want to look like what you want to become. And so if the concept is to bring in a larger percentage of non-African-American members, then you have to begin to mirror that in your leadership.’”



The Rev. Kimberly Orr (left) serves with senior pastor the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, a congregation that is 97 percent black.
The Rev. Kimberly Orr (left) serves with senior pastor
the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell
at Windsor Village United
Methodist Church in
Houston, a congregation
that is 97 percent black.
View in Photo Gallery

Reflecting on the appointment several months later, Caldwell said, it has been a good fit.

“I think the kingdom consists of persons of all ages, nations and races … homogeneous is arguably not reflective of the kingdom.”

But Caldwell said bringing Orr on board wasn’t just about making a cross-racial appointment.

“She’s got this cool class about prayer and arts. I never would have thought to combine prayer and arts,” he said. “Kim is smart. She’s strategic. She’s spiritual. She’s following the path that the Lord has given her at a good pace. And she’s making a difference as she goes.

“Oh, by the way, she happens to not look like me. OK? So we won’t hold that against her. In fact, it is a plus in this case.”

Prayer and art

Prayer and the Arts is held on Thursday evenings. Inside the classroom, Orr has arranged two tempting tables filled with crayons, markers, paint, brushes, drawing paper and other art supplies.

Orr’s ultimate hope for the class is to bring out everyone’s creative side. They are into the third week of examining The Lord’s Prayer. Homework for this session was a creative response to John 1:1-18.



Candles and battery-powered book lights are used to illuminate scripts during a class on prayer and the arts led by the Rev. Kimberly Orr.
Candles and battery-powered book lights are used to illuminate scripts during a class on prayer and the arts led by the Rev. Kimberly Orr. View in Photo Gallery

Deirdre Ricketts baked some fortune cookies stuffed with messages specific to each class participant. Rashonda Stevenson combined a computer-generated portrait of Christ with the scriptures, and Laura Elwood had a dramatic interpretation with music, candles and a script.

Orr was pleased with the outcome.

“My major goal with this class is to help everyone see that all humans are created in the image of a creating God. Therefore, whether you think you are or not, you are creative.”

Before entering into ordained ministry, she pursued two degrees in music and worked for the Houston Grand Opera as an international tour manager. Her undergraduate degree is from Sam Houston State University and her first master’s is from Rice University. She attended Asbury Theological Seminary for her master of divinity degree.

Good match

Orr and the Rev. Suzette Caldwell, Kirbyjon Caldwell’s wife, became friends after meeting at a local pastors’ school sponsored by the Texas Annual (regional) Conference. “Our children have played together off and on. Suzette and I used to sit and talk mom talk; our sons are close in age.”

She also did some contract curriculum writing and teaching before being asked to come on staff.



The Rev. Kimberly Orr leads a class on prayer and the arts.
The Rev. Kimberly Orr leads a class on prayer and the arts.
View in Photo Gallery

“Pastor Kirbyjon was just extremely excited about being able to offer it to me. And it didn’t take me but just a minute to accept it, truly,” she said.

Almost as soon as Orr came on board, Caldwell and his wife took a three-month sabbatical.

“At first I was freaked,” Orr admits. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to exist here in this environment without them to sort of guide me initially. But I settled down, and I realized it was a good thing.”

She said it allowed her to make her own way and for people to get to know her without “filtering” everything through the charismatic leadership of the Caldwells.

Orr said she was received warmly from the beginning.

“It didn’t feel forced in any way. There was not some, ‘Oh, we have to make the white girl feel good.’ I can say from the depths of my heart, we are brothers and sisters in Christ and we work together to bring about the kingdom of God. I feel so privileged to be here.”

For his part, Caldwell was confident the congregation at Windsor Village would welcome Orr.



The Rev. Kimberly Orr plays “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” in her class on prayer and the arts.
The Rev. Kimberly Orr plays “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” in
her class on prayer and the arts.
View in Photo Gallery

“I will say that the members of the church here at Windsor are very supportive, very loving, very caring, and they really model the gospel in the 21st century,” Caldwell said.

Orr points out there are only five pastors on staff, despite the massive size of the congregation. She said the congregation is very supportive and appreciative of the ministry staff and takes the leadership in many of the ministries.

Caldwell knows that is a blessing not to be taken for granted. He said the church makes it a point to help individuals find their calling.

“Some of the candidates (for ordained ministry) and now pastors have become spoiled because they think that most members of other United Methodist churches are going to be as loving and as caring and as supportive as the Windsor members. But, as the song goes, it ain’t necessarily so.”

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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