It all started when...
in 1958, The Board of Missions of the United Methodist Church purchased a five acre tract of land on Berkeley Avenue in south Austin for a future church site. On March 1, 1972, Berkeley United Methodist Church officially came into being with the appointment of the first pastor, Reverend W. B. Sandberg and with the assistance of a retired Methodist minister, Dr. Sidney McCaig. The land on Berkeley Avenue was still undeveloped so members held services at Cunningham Elementary School.
In January 1974, construction began and a mere eight months later, on August 25, members held their first worship services in the new building. Additional classrooms were added in 1979, and the Susan Shirley prayer room was constructed in 1993. In 1998 the Christian Life Center (CLC) was added.
The Legend of the Bell
When the new church building was completed in August 1974, the congregation was pleased and full of excitement but the one thing they still wished for was a bell to hang in the new tower. After some searching, the pastor discovered one at an abandoned church in West Point, Texas, a very small community on Highway 71 about halfway between Smithville and La Grange.
Church member, Ronny Smith, recruited a friend who owned a crane to go with him to retrieve the bell from the old church building and bring it to its new home. As the men were dismantling the tower to get the bell out, some residents became alarmed that someone was stealing their bell, and they threatened to call the sheriff. It seems that the building had been turned into a domino parlor, and the bell was rung when it was time to play! Only after Mr. Smith produced a letter from the Methodist Board giving him permission to remove the bell did the residents agree to let the men continue. After the bell was removed, Mr. Smith and his friend restored the West Point bell tower to its previous state then hauled the bell to Austin to place it in its new home on Berkeley Avenue.
When it arrived, it was cleaned, refurbished, and hung in its place of honor. It still rings out every Sunday morning and on other special occasions to call the people to worship and celebrate the Lord.
What Methodists believe?
The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by proclaiming the good news of God's grace and by exemplifying Jesus' command to love God and neighbor, thus seeking the fulfillment of God's reign and realm in the world. The fulfillment of God's reign and realm in the world is the vision Scripture holds before us. The United Methodist Church affirms the historic creeds of the faith (Nicene and Apostles) and the triunity of God. The church affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Lord of all. As we make disciples, we respect persons of all religious faiths and we defend religious freedom for all persons. Jesus' words in Matthew provide the Church with our mission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (28:19-20), and "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . . And you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (22:37, 39).
This mission is our grace-filled response to the Reign of God in the world announced by Jesus. God's grace is active everywhere, at all times, carrying out this purpose as revealed in the Bible. It is expressed in God's covenant with Abraham and Sarah, in the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, and in the ministry of the prophets. It is fully embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is experienced in the ongoing creation of a new people by the Holy Spirit.
John Wesley, Phillip Otterbein, Jacob Albright, and our other spiritual forebears understood this mission in this way. Whenever United Methodism has had a clear sense of mission, God has used our Church to save persons, heal relationships, transform social structures, and spread scriptural holiness, thereby changing the world. In order to be truly alive, we embrace Jesus' mandate to love God and to love our neighbor and to make disciples of all peoples.
Methodists hold the Articles of Religion as authoritative for faith.