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City’s newest church opens - Odessa American: Religion

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City’s newest church opens

Sponsored by First UMC, The Bridge caters to young families on Odessa’s north side

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Posted: Saturday, December 23, 2017 3:30 am

What began as a dream and continued as five years of very hard work has become a reality with the opening of The Bridge church at 3901 E. Yukon Rd.

The Rev. Donnie Williams, pastor, and members Abby Bishop, Megan Trotter and Reagan Whytlaw say it was anything but easy, starting in 2012, to have 10:16 a.m. Sunday services at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School at 6401 Amber Dr. while making plans and raising money.

With the help of the sponsoring First United Methodist Church downtown and other supporters, they collected more than $6 million for Mid-Tex of Midland to build the 21,000-square-foot complex and for Parkhill, Smith & Cooper architect Kreg Robertson to design it. The grand opening was Nov. 5.

Williams was working as youth minister at the First UMC when the now retired Rev. Terry Tamplen suggested establishing a church on the high growth north side of town.

“We knew the community was growing this way, and we wanted to be part of that and focus on reaching families and kids,” said Williams, 56, who graduated from Odessa High School in 1979 and took a degree in entrepreneurship and finance at Baylor University.

“We try to make our messages relevant to them and where they are.”

The Bridge drew 600 people to its grand opening, and it averages teaching 75 to 100 children in the fifth grade and younger. “We had a Halloween party, and the UTPB football team and Odessa College golf team helped run it,” said Williams, who earned an advanced degree from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

He explained that Sunday services have always been at 10:16 because most churches hold them at 10 or 10:30 and splitting the difference is easier to remember. Other leaders are Children’s Minister Alex Calentine, Worship Leader Matthew Willis, Melody Gilbert, who heads the hospitality department, and Kelby Davis, who gives the kids’ sermons.

Williams said church members played an active role in drawing the interior design.

Bishop described “growing up in the youth ministry with Donnie and seeing his passion for serving others.

“Seeing the process of building the church and bringing the families into one big family has been amazing,” she said.

Trotter and her husband had started a family and returned to Odessa when they heard about The Bridge. “It was a blessing that God was calling out to us as a newly married couple,” she said.

“Donnie knows how to reach out to our demographic. Some of the churches we’d been to were so in depth that I was in over my head, but he keeps it relevant to our generation.”

Whytlaw has been with The Bridge from the beginning. “We had to set up and tear down the screens and everything each weekend,” she said.

“I was overwhelmed when I first walked through the door here. It’s not just a building, it’s a home. By meeting for so long beforehand, we had a good idea of what it needed to look like.”

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