In a city famous for having a house of faith on nearly every street corner, The Grove Church stands out mostly for the number of early adherents.
The first formal service, held Oct. 22, drew about 600 people, campus pastor the Rev. Stephen Lohoefer said.
“We had a lot of people standing,” he said. “It was a great ‘problem.’”
The Grove, an offshoot of Highland Park United Methodist Church, is meeting in a renovated gymnasium on property that used to house Schreiber Memorial UMC.
Over the years, Schreiber’s growth slowed as its membership aged, and the church merged with HPUMC.
As home to the Grove, the campus features a large front lawn used to help connect the congregation to the neighborhood.
“I have seen people walking dogs on it and kids throwing footballs on it,” Lohoefer said. “We want to kind of get rid of that distinction between us and them.”
The Grove, near Jesuit Dallas and W.T. White High School, is about 9 miles from HPUMC’s main campus.
New courtyard space has been built with blocks of granite and shade trees. New flooring, lighting, and paint create a “living room” of sorts in the gym, Lohoefer said.
“Our hope for this church is that we’d be a community of people; that we’d have relationships with a lot of different people … and people who don’t think like us and look like us, but that ultimately we would be a great community and a great member of the larger community,” he said.
About 60 percent of the sermons at the Grove will be simulcast from the main HPUMC campus, with the remainder given by Lohoefer in person. Services will offer a contemporary style of worship.
“One of the things that we think people find meaning [in] is the wonderful hymns we’ve grown up with,” Lohoefer said. “[We] take that rich theological message and … mix modern sound with ancient words.”
Mary Rosenbleeth, a congregation member, is making the switch from the HPUMC’s main campus.
“I’ve already reconnected with old friends and made new ones, all of whom are looking forward to seeing the impact the Grove will have in our neighborhood,” she said. “With two schools with big needs within a block of the church, we have a great opportunity as a community to be living examples of Christ’s word.”
The Grove’s staff includes Lohoefer, two associate pastors, and a worship leader. Lohoefer, who has been on staff at HPUMC for 11 years, is originally from Wichita Falls and came to Dallas to attend SMU. He also lives in the neighborhood near the Grove and said the church will give back to the area through activities like a monthly dinner.
“We’ll gather and share a meal and spend some time talking about life and how life and faith intersect,” he said. “Churches have been all about food since the time of Jesus. I’ve heard that two good ways to build relationships are through campfires and meals.”