News from your district
ABINGDON: The aging members of Charles Wesley UMC dreamed of a ramp to help them navigate the difficult steps to the church doors. But the ramp didn't become reality until Superintendent Mike Hubble mentioned the need to the "Helping Hands" men of Pleasant View UMC. Within three days of Hubble's request, the plans were drawn, the permits were secured, and 17 men from Pleasant View and other churches gathered Nov. 20 to build the ramp. The women of Charles Wesley showed gratitude by preparing a meal for the volunteers. (See Pleasant View's Facebook page)
BIG STONE GAP: Trinity UMC in Big Stone Gap made a parade float out of an 18-wheeler flatbed truck, with two generators providing power for lights and Christmas music. The float's theme was "His Presence is Our Greatest Present," which won first place in both the Big Stone Gap Christmas parade and the Appalachia parade. "All 14 children on the float came to our church through our van ministry," says the Rev. Kenneth LaDuke. The van outreach minister is Larry Spears. (See Trinity's Facebook page)
CHATTANOOGA: Signal Mountain UMC moved into its new and renovated facilities in mid-November, reports the Rev. J.N. Howard. Established in 1857, the church had been at its present location since 1948 with only a sanctuary, two children's classrooms and a small fellowship hall. The new building includes an enlarged sanctuary, big fellowship hall, and three classrooms with renovations to the older building to provide a nursery, choir room, and narthex. Worship attendance has more than doubled since 2006, with eight new members joining in the first three Sundays in the new facility. (See Signal Mountain's Facebook page)
CLEVELAND: Ten youth and children and five adult volunteers endured freezing weather to represent Daisy UMC in the Soddy-Daisy Christmas parade on Dec. 4. The children tossed candy out to the crowds lining the parade route. "We were not the only church in the community represented," said the Rev. Don Jones. "We were the most enthusiastic." (See Daisy's Facebook page)
JOHNSON CITY: The United Methodist Men of Edgefield UMC started a food pantry in 2005, serving three families in the first month. In October 2010, the pantry served 100 families on its third-Saturday-of-the-month distribution. The pantry is now a community effort, supported by $1,000 monthly from the Edgefield budget along with donations from other churches, Scouts, groups, and individuals."It's amazing what God can do when we don't put restrictions and limits on him and just serve him," Williams said.
KINGSPORT: Kendricks Creek UMC received national recognition from Sears after five "amateur" craftsmen in the church built a chancel and altar rails out of red oak. The men, ages 68 to 81 years old, call themselves the Pout House Gang, according to their affirming leader, the Rev. Susan Anderson. (See Kendricks Creek's Facebook page)
KNOXVILLE: Ray and Jennifer McDonald haven't cooked many meals since Jennifer began having severe head pain in March and Ray was laid off from his job. Members at Middlebrook Pike UMC are providing all meals, organizing fundraisers, and sending anonymous donations and cards to help and encourage the couple and their 7-year-old son. "When you talk about church family, you don’t understand what it truly means until something like this happens,” Ray McDonald told the Knoxville News Sentinel. Jennifer was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in late October.
MARYVILLE: Broadway UMC obtained a city permit so the Christmas Story could be read in public after the Maryville tree lighting on Dec. 5. WBIR-TV reported that a complaint raised about separation of church and state resulted in elimination of the Christmas reading in 2009, but residents asked for the tradition to return this year. "All the hoopla is really about the birth of the baby who came to change the world," said Broadway Pastor Amy Probst, who read Luke 2:1-20 after the city tree was ceremoniously illuminated. (See Broadway's Facebook page)
MORRISTOWN: The mother of the pastor at Noe's Chapel UMC knitted caps for each of his 15 church children, so the proud pastor/son handed out the hats during the Advent candle lighting on Dec. 5. "You would have thought there was no heat in the building because of all the children wearing hats," said the Rev. Dennis Loy. "Mom" is Dorthy Loy, a member at Fountain City UMC in Knoxville, who in the last two years has knitted 75 hats for the homeless served by Lost Sheep Ministry.
OAK RIDGE: Folks say Junior Welch was the heart of the Arthur community. "He just liked to help people," says Welch's pastor at Arthur UMC, the Rev. Eric Doolittle. Welch was known for riding his bike or motorcycle around the neighborhood – stopping to talk to everyone – but especially focused on visiting the home-bound and sick. On Oct. 2, he was riding out to visit a sick aunt when he had an motorcycle accident and died from a head injury. In his memory, an anonymous donor gave money to buy 50 canned hams, which were distributed as Christmas gifts to families in the mobile-home community near the church. "This seemed like a natural way to honor his memory, especially with the hard year so many of our neighbors are having," says Doolittle.
TAZEWELL: First Narrows UMC hosted its annual Community Christmas and Dolly’s Love Tree on Dec 5, providing gifts of clothes and food for 40 needy families. The 30-year ministry is led by Dolly Sadler, a retired special education teacher who raised a record $1,600 this year with her baggie-lined Christmas tree in the narthex. "Dolly's dedication and compassion is an extraordinary example of agape love," says Pastor Chris Brown. (See First Narrow's Facebook page)
WYTHEVILLE: The district's "Day Apart Training" at Fort Chiswell UMC on Nov. 21 was attended by 288 laity and clergy. One of the eight sessions was taught by Bishop James Swanson: "Crafting Sermons for Changing Times." Swanson opened the class by inviting questions, "which ranged from today's lack of emphasis on the reality of hell to my personal preparation for preaching," he said. The day's theme was "Embracing Change."