Bering’s Rich Heritage
This congregation was founded in 1848 by German-speaking immigrants. At that time, the population of Houston was only about 5,000. In the 1850s, a small church building was built at what is now the intersection of Milam and McKinney Streets in downtown Houston.
German remained the primary language in the worship services and Sunday School classes until 1911, at which time the name was changed to Bering Memorial—honoring two brothers, August and Conrad Bering, who had been instrumental in the founding of the congregation. Our present sanctuary—now designated a historical landmark—was completed in 1926.
The 1960s and 1970s brought a surge of “hippies and homosexuals” into Bering’s neighborhood of Montrose. As these new neighbors began to attend services at Bering, the Administrative Board made a commitment to be fully in ministry to and with them and to welcome them into the church family without discrimination or prejudice.
Bering continues to be a leading voice in the movement for full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the United Methodist Church. Homophobia, gender inequality, racism, an unjust American penal system, wealth inequality, poverty, and homelessness are just of few of the other issues about which the Church needs to have a voice in the dialogue. Looking to the future, we are constantly seeking to discern how Bering’s voice can make the most difference, as we strive to mirror the all-inclusive, reconciling love of Jesus Christ in the world.
Bering’s History of Service
From its beginning, Bering Memorial has established itself as a congregation with a commitment to serving the needs of the community. Bering organized nursing teams during the Yellow Fever epidemics in the late 1800s and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. The congregation supported rebuilding efforts in Europe and Asia after World War II, and in the mid 1900s sponsored missionaries to Mexico and the Belgian Congo. Bering gave financial support for the building of Methodist Hospital. During a particularly difficult winter in the late 1970s, Bering set up a temporary homeless shelter on our campus. We were instrumental in the formation of SEARCH Homeless Ministries and have been a supporting member of SEARCH, Emergency Aid Coalition, and Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston.
When the AIDS epidemic began to wreak its devastation in the 1980s, Bering responded with the establishment of the Wednesday Night Spiritual Support Group for people infected with or affected by HIV (still the cornerstone of The Bering Support Network), and founded the Bering Community Services Foundation (now Bering Omega Community Services) to fund an Adult Day Care Center and Dental Clinic—and later a residential hospice—for people with HIV.
Bering is now working to strengthen and grow its Open Gate Ministry—an outreach program for GLBT and otherwise marginalized homeless youth.