Choosing a place to worship | 7/16/2008, 7 p.m.

Memphis often is called “the city of churches.” Where people choose to worship reflects myriad penchants and preferences, with one constant – people seem to want to feel connected to a warm and caring community of others who share their values and beliefs.

Here is what a sampling of Memphians had to say about their places of worship:

“I love my church because it’s my family church. We have been there for four generations. Our congregation is small, and everyone knows everyone. There is a wide degree of diversity – people of different races and ethnic groups. We all have so many opportunities to get involved with outreach. We support foreign missions to other countries, and First United has a long history of community service in our city. We got involved with First Works some years ago. It’s a social services ministry to the community.
“Right now, we are meeting at St. Jude Children’s Hospital because our church burned down a couple of years back. But we are rebuilding. Even that awful experience has brought us closer as a church family and community of believers who believe that God can sustain us through even the darkest experiences.”

Laura Deskin
First United Methodist Church
“I am between churches right now, but I realize that I must give due diligence to pray about finding a church home. I understand that being a part of some local body of believers is important. People in corporate worship not only honor God, but they offer each other support and strength in dealing with the adversities we all experience at one time or another.
“My life will be so much richer and fulfilling as I get connected with a church family. I have not looked as hard as I should, but I’m not giving up. A church is very critical to my life. I understand that very well. My prayer is that the Lord will lead me to the place He wants me to be. I have faith and hope that a new church home is on the horizon. For this, I do appreciate the Lord.”

Jeff Hewlett
‘Between churches’
“My pastors are Leo and Alma Holt. I was raised in a traditional Baptist church, but the Lord led me to this non-denominational ministry in 1994. I just love my pastor and his wife. It’s such a loving church, and the Bible teaching we get has really helped me grow in my faith. They are reaching the world for Jesus, and it’s just so great to be a part of this ministry.”

Shirley Horn
Grace Christian Fellowship Church


“I’m not a big fan of organized religion, but I consider myself a very spiritual person. Although I am not a Buddhist, I wear a Tibetan Prayer Wheel around my neck. And that is part of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
“The Prayer Wheel contains small pieces of paper with prayer requests on them. These are things that I pray for constantly – they are the people I love and know and some other requests I really feel strongly about.
“When it comes to religion or spirituality, I believe it is quite simple: loving our God and loving every man as my brother.
“My personal evolution began in reform Judaism. My place of worship was Temple Israel for a number of years. But over the years, I have adopted the Taoism philosophy. Energy cannot be created. It only changes form. My spirituality defies any label, I believe. I’m a Malcolmist, if you just want a label. I am just me.”
Malcolm Levi
‘I am just me’
“I was raised up in different doctrines. I attended a Baptist church and went to a Roman Catholic school until the ninth grade. And so, I developed a strong fear of God – an awe of the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
“My granddad’s church was Grace Gospel Church, a non-denominational, inter-racial congregation. That was during my formative years and on through my teens. And so those early experiences fueled my thirst for spiritual truth.
“I grew up with my mom and sister, but my grandfather was there as a positive male role model for me. I came to Memphis in January, and I am presently searching for a church home here. As a Persian War vet, I suffer from a bi-polar disorder. But I have continued my monthly devotionals while I search.
“I realize that the church I choose must address the specific needs I have. Someone told me that a church called The Healing Center operates what they call Emotional Fitness Centers of Tennessee. And I plan to call them. I feel certain that they can address the special needs for both a church home and emotional support as I grapple with my condition. I am so grateful because I believe the Lord has sent my answer to prayer.”

Craig Meriwether
Searching for a church home

“I have been a member of World Overcomers for six years. I love my church because the ministries there address the needs of our whole family. The teaching is solid and balanced, and we get practical insights on living. Apostle Alton Williams is our pastor.
We love him because he’s so transparent and open.
“A lot of people feel he is controversial, but he is called of God to carry the gospel, and he is living a family legacy in ministry. He was a disc jockey, and he ran from his call to pastor. Apostle loves music. When he finally submitted to the call on his life, God gave him the desires of his heart.
“So he has a wonderful testimony about how the Lord has worked in his life and how he continues to work in our ministry. We just love our church. There’s something going on all the time.”

Susie Springfield
World Overcomers Outreach Ministries
“My family has been at Immaculate Conception since 2004. I grew up in the Catholic church. I was an altar boy – I mean, the whole thing. At this church, I found the ministry to be somewhat different. There is more community outreach, education opportunities, and we have a wonderful pastor.
“The belief in service to others outside the church walls is so in line with what we should be involved in. IC has helped to strengthen and complement my work at the Church Health Center. Healthcare ministry to the indigent and those who cannot afford health insurance is a very important social service.
“My job gives me the opportunity to really put my faith into action. That is what we must all do: continue to find ways to improve the quality of life for others. That is real faith in action, addressing practical needs. When we touch others, we touch the heart of God.”

Marvin Stockwell
Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception
“I was raised in Emmanuel. It has been our family church for four generations. All the children who grew up in church with me had parents who were there when my parents were growing up. It’s the same with my grandparents and their parents. Belonging to Emmanuel is like having a very large extended family. Everyone knows everyone else. And as far as the worship is concerned, I love the rituals and the solemn atmosphere of the church. There is a sense of peace. I’ve visited other churches, and I like the contemporary music and the demonstrative praise that you see at so many churches. But I love the traditions of the Episcopal church. My church is like a fresh breath for me. We’re not as strict as the Catholic church. People have called the Episcopal church “Catholic Light.’ Today, those of us in the younger generation call it ‘Diet Catholic.”

Allya Thomas
Emmanuel Episcopal Church