White Rock UMC Saves Church by Renting Space

For 80 years in East Dallas, White Rock United Methodist Church has offered spiritual transformation. But its historic walls also created separation.

"There was a point in time where we weren't sure we were going to make it as a congregation,"senior pastor Mitchell Boone said.

Boone was first appointed to White Rock UMC seven years ago, where he faced challenges not too uncommon for any house of worship.

"The church had been in decline for several decades, we'd lost members, worship attendance was in decline and we'd kind of lost hope,” Boone said.

Their 60,000-square-foot building was nearly empty, but still demanded money to maintain it.

"It was evident that we needed something to change and it needed to be pretty drastic and it needed to happen pretty quickly," Boone said.

So they took a risk and opened their doors. They invited people who weren't members of their church to rent space.

Now, in the church's basement, the Taoist Tai Chi Society flows right next to The Mix Co-Working and Creative Space.

While down the hall, The Sewing Lab hosts a community of African refugees who are growing a textiles business called The Ahadi Collective.

And two floors up, the Maria Kannon Zen Center teaches meditation to people of all religions.

"Honestly, we have been really blessed because the church has been very welcoming to our group," said Helen Cortes, who meditates with the Maria Kannon Zen Center. "So it's been very, very helpful."

Every open space of the church's 60,000 square feet is now being used. The growth even spills into the parking lot, with a community garden of 25 raised beds where neighbors and organizations can grow roots in the church's soil.

"As we invited the community into this space, we've been able to connect with our neighborhood and that's really important," Boone said. "The walls of the church are porous now, so we have this kind of free-flowing groups of folks that come in and out of the church."

Boone said they feel like they're making a difference in East Dallas and some of their new guests are also coming on Sundays, which has helped double their worship attendance.

"We can begin to see that the Holy Spirit is working in ways that the church can't even imagine," Boone said.

Pivoting from the church's traditional playbook was a risk, but its success has helped build their faith.

"I think it just reminds us that hope emerges in unexpected places," Boone said.

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