District Roundup: Expanded version of popular column offers good news in rough times

District Roundup: Expanded version of popular column offers good news in rough times



Easter dinner, from ham to pie

The Matthew 25 Hub, a ministry through Project Crossroads in Marion, Va., celebrated Easter with people in need by distributing 200 meal bags. The bags, which fed 528 altogether, contained an Easter devotion and all the makings for an Easter dinner from ham to pie. Matthew 25 Hub was started in 2007 with church members from various denominations coming together to plan poverty-targeting projects, said Church and Community Worker Linda Stransky. Past projects include providing vouchers for families to buy school shoes; beginning a community garden; collecting household items for families starting new homes; and organizing churches to "adopt-a-room" for needed repairs on a home for single mothers and a child care center. (See photo.)

Honoring the 'Everyday Heroes'

On May 1, Sinking Springs UMC had an "Everyday Heroes" service. Church members came early to prepare breakfast for the guests: 24 firefighters and emergency medical service workers. Guest speaker was Gerald Morton, author and EMS worker in Bristol, who asked, "Where is Jesus in the midst of tragedy?" Said the Rev. Randy Powers, "As God knows more than us, this special day was planned several weeks before the tornadoes came. Some of the very people we honored were the first on the scene when tornadoes hit Glade Spring on April 27-28. What this day meant to them was more than I expected." (See photo.)

Gray hairs are pulling together

"We are experiencing the breath of God at First Bristol UMC," reports Sue Dietz. A new worship service, "The River," was created with contemplative music, prayer, and communion every week. "Now, as somber as that may sound, the community of care and concern being developed is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in any church," Dietz says, praising the Rev. Joe-d DowlingSoka for his vision. The congregation is also proud to help earthquake victims in Haiti through connections provided by a Haitian family that has long served in First Bristol UMC. "Yes, there are still a lot of us gray hairs, and yes, we need many more young families," Dietz said, "but God willing, that also will come as we pull together and praise our God in a new way."

Warmly remembering the homeless

About 10 middle-school students in the Junior Class at South Bristol UMC collected coats, blankets, gloves, and scarves for the Haven of Rest shelter in January. The students were inspired to do their own service project when the Rev. Charles Ledger shared the story of a girl he had heard about who made it her ministry to take coats to the homeless. "She even used her own Christmas and birthday money to do this," he said. (See photo.)


From junk room to children's library

When the Rev. Linda Krauss came to Exeter UMC in June 2009, she immediately saw that Appalachia, a coal mine camp settlement, was sorely lacking in children's activities. She organized a library in the church's former kitchen (which had become a "junk room" after a new kitchen was built) and appealed for books throughout the district. Twenty-five boxes of books came from various donors, and Exeter member Barry Nelson built shelves, replaced the floor, and installed a dehumidifier. Other labor and donations --including books, shelves, computer, and printer -- were provided by the pastor's husband, the Rev. Vince Krauss (pastor of Dryden/Seminary Circuit); the Rev. Archer Coppedge (BSG District superintendent); and Nancy Hobbs (former BSG Church and Community Worker). Exeter members Barbara Wagner and Dora Herald were enlisted as librarians. When the new library opened on May 14, six children attended and checked out books. Nelson placed a new plaque on the wall that proclaimed the new ministry: "Linda Krauss Library." (See detailed article and photos.)


Matthew, the can-do kid

At Thanksgiving, the Rev. Bill Akers asked worshipers in "The Spring" contemporary service at Wauhatchie UMC to gather in small groups and share ideas about community outreach. Eight-year-old Matthew Patrick's group said they wanted to collect cans of food, since Matthew had noticed the needy children in his neighborhood. At first, the group said they would collect 100 cans, then 500. But when it came time to announce their goals, Matthew asked aloud, "Why not 1,000 cans?" People in the audience started to laugh except Matthew," Akers said. "My response was that we could easily get 1,000 cans if we shared the idea with the traditional service." Two weeks later, the contemporary and traditional worshipers combined for a joint service and celebrated the collection of more than 1,300 cans of food for the church food pantry -- the only pantry among 13 churches in Tiftonia and Lookout Valley. "Matthew has a heart of kindness, and he sees his friends who do not have much," Akers said. "I automatically thought of the verse which says, 'Let the children come unto me."

Finishing the good race

At Tyner UMC, 28 members participated in a 12-week "Run for God" Bible study. "It not only prepared us to spiritually run the race that God set before us," says leader Emily Niehaus, "but also prepared us to run an actual 5K race." The class concluded on Wednesday, April 6, but the race took place on Saturday, April 9, at Prater’s Mill in Varnell, Ga. Three runners began their 13.1 mile race at 7:30 a.m., finishing about two hours and 16 minutes later. The rest of the group started at 9 a.m. and ran longer -- "but I am proud to say that all of us finished," said Niehaus. "As our group came to realize, we don’t have to be the best runner or the fastest runner. God just wants us to be willing to take part in his race."

Big chill doesn't stop 'unity in the community'

Despite three inches of rain on the night before and cool, breezy weather, East Ridge UMC hosted more than 600 guests for a "Unity in the Community" block party on April 16. Jackie Watson reports that a 2010 evangelism grant and donations from area businesses enabled the church to provide musical entertainment, testimonies, blow-up games, food, door prizes. balloon animals, and a stunt cyclist. "Fifty-one families and individuals indicated they had no church family and would like to receive contact from our church," Watson said. "We also had about that many children preregister for Vacation Bible School this July." Church leaders sent this letter as part of the follow-up process.

26 new tents for the homeless

Members of St. Luke UMC not only responded to the need for tornado financial help through the Chattanooga District, they responded to the needs of the homeless who lost their tents -- their homes -- during the April storms. St. Luke members purchased 26 tents (each costing about $27) for distribution through the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. The church's Outreach Chairperson and her nine-year-old daughter inserted a Bible verse in the directions for each tent (Psalm 91:1-2) with a word of love from the members of the church. "It was a great day for us and a wonderful outreach," said the Rev. Cynthia Thompson.

Showing sacrifice (and kindness) at Sonic

St. John UMC started a "Pay it Backward" campaign during Lent. Church members were challenged to pay a debt for someone behind them in line, "just like Jesus paid the debt for us," said Dale Dye, director of family ministries. A special web page allowed members to download cards explaining why the debt had been paid and inviting beneficiaries to share their experiences online. One Chattanooga woman posted the following: "On my morning stop to Sonic, I realized I didn't have enough change for my morning drink. When I got to the window, the employee informed me that the lady in front of me had paid! The employee then handed me the 'pay it backward' card. What a wonderful act of kindness and service." (See Chattanooga Times Free Press article.)

Gladys: 90 years of faithful service

The Rev. Jeff Lambert, pastor at Red Bank UMC, recently celebrated the life of Gladys Dickerson in an email to Bishop James Swanson. "I wanted to tell you about one of my church members who passed away on Jan. 26," Lambert wrote. Dickerson was baptized and joined Red Bank Church on Nov. 7, 1920, at the conclusion of her confirmation class. The Rev. W. Earl Hotalen was her pastor. Dickerson was the church's 12th member. "She remained a member for 90 years, until her death at 101 years old," Lambert said. "That is a great testimony of faithfulness to God and God's Church. She was as sweet as she could be and her mind was good until the last week of her life. She took a great deal of pride in being a member all those years and is a great witness and inspiration to all of us."


Wesleyanna gathers at the river

Wesleyanna UMC celebrated Easter with a river baptismal service, reports the Rev. Scott Wilks. Celebrants gathered at Hiwassee River in Delano to sing "Shall We Gather at the River" and share with the four who recited their baptismal vows. The youth, Paul and Sarah Goodman and Abbey and Mara Wilks, had recently completed confirmation classes with their friends and asked to be baptized "like Jesus, in a river." About 20 worshipers attended and later shared a picnic lunch. (See photo.)

Broad Street claims 75 years of history

Broad Street UMC celebrated its 175th anniversary on May 30 with "History Sunday." "Even before Cleveland was a town, the Holston Conference sent Madison C. Hawk in 1836 to the 'Spring Place Mission,' a circuit including several North Georgia counties and the Cherokee Territory in which Cleveland was to be located." Read more in the Cleveland Daily Banner.


Sewing and sowing for Haiti

As they prepared to send their first international mission team to Cap Haitien, Haiti, the children and adults of Jonesborough UMC made pillowcase dresses for girls and shorts for boys. Created through a project called the Sew and Sowers, the clothing was made for 60 children living in an orphanage, where the Jonesborough team planned to serve. On Sunday, Feb. 27, bright and colorful children's clothing lined the altar rail and 10 mission team members were commissioned for short-term Christian service. The team served in Haiti March 3-11, painting bedrooms, building a library, and leading Bible studies for the orphanage children, reports the Rev. Tammy Wright. (See photo.)


Summer Thursdays in the park

Mafair UMC will reach out to community children this summer with "Mafair at the Mill" at Borden Mill Park. The ministry will be offered Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., May 27 through July 7. "Our church has an interest in getting to know our community better and allowing our community to get to know us better," Parish Nurse Patricia Downs told the Kingsport Times-News. (See the KTN story.)


Hillcrest hosts crime-stoppers

More than 50 friends and neighbors gathered with top law officers at Hillcrest UMC on May 16 to discuss ways of stopping crime in the South Knoxville community. Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said community involvement plays a big role in curbing crime and advised everyone to watch out for each other. "The people are our eyes and ears. When they see something happen, call us. Let us know," he said. (See VolunteerTV.com story.)


Pastor shares a piece of heaven

"Heaven Swept" is the name of the Rev. Larry DeVault's retirement home in Sevierville, and it has six bedrooms, six baths, a media room, game room, and large laundry room on three floors. But the pastor at St. Mark's UMC isn't bragging -- he's inviting. "Velina and I have been blessed with a home that we feel the Lord wants us to share with others," he says. "We want our friends to always feel welcome to come and spend some time with us. Yet, the Lord has impressed upon us to extend the offer to retired and new ministers in the conference, who live away from the Great Smoky Mountains, to come and bring their families and stay with us for a few hours or few days at no cost." For more info, email pastorstmarks@charterinternet.com.

Buckner men: United we stand

Buckner Memorial UMC recently chartered a new United Methodist Men's group, bringing the Maryville District's total of UMM groups to seven. Buckner Memorial is located on the Hiwassee College campus.
The men at Buckner Memorial are excited about the opportunities for service, fellowship, and spiritual growth made possible through the United Methodist Men connection, according to Paul Barker, Buckner UMM president. "Earlier this year two men from our church attended the district United Methodist Men event where they were given information about how to charter and viewed a presentation about the many ways a UMM unit can make a difference," he said. "We realized the timing was right for us to form our own unit." (See photo.)

Broadway trustees look skyward

When Broadway UMC needed to repair the roof, the cost was $59,900 but an insurance claim only paid $43,500. With the help of a Holston Conference Foundation endowment, the church trustees were able to make several wise decisions to repair the roof and make other improvements. (Read the page 6 article in the "Broadway e-Messenger.")



They haven't forgotten Katrina

For the fourth consecutive year, First Oak Ridge UMC sent a mission team to the Mississippi gulf coast to build new homes and restore houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. From March 5-12, Oak Ridgers stayed at Camp Love in Gulfport, Miss., where 158,000 volunteers have also participated in the Mississippi Conference's Katrina Recovery. The team worked at three locations – framing a new house, working on sheet rock in another new house, and doing repairs in a mobile home. A return trip is planned in spring 2012, according to Marie Conrad.


Hallelujah, bye and bye

"On Monday, May 9, we were having a funeral at Rocky Gap UMC," reports the Rev. Rodney Lawson. "As people were coming in to visit with the family before the service, they were greeted by a new family that had just moved in." A robin had decided to build her nest in the wreath that hung on the church's front door, Lawson explained. Four baby birds had hatched in the wreath, causing joy to ripple throughout the church. "As we gathered to celebrate the life of one who had gone home to be with the Lord, there was also a celebration of new life. Everyone was talking about how great it was, and they shared the experience with each other, making sure that all who came saw the baby birds." (See photos.)


What the world needs now

While others were buying chocolate hearts and greeting cards, Pastor RuthAnne Henley challenged her congregations to celebrate Valentine's Day in a new way. "We reached out to the needy in our community in response to the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40," Henley says: "And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.’" Church members were asked to place anonymous Valentines to Jesus on the altars of Rural Retreat Circuit, sharing how they showed love to others. The love acts included: paying a needy family's house payment, helping to pay funeral expenses for a family in crisis, buying Sunday school supplies for a needy student, reconnecting with estranged friends, shopping for an elderly couple, visiting neighbors and inviting them to worship, taking a home-cooked meal to a shut-in, visiting nursing homes. The Rural Retreat Circuit includes Fairview, Fulton, King's Grove, and Marvin UMC.

Wytheville leads the way in disaster training

Several members responded to a call for trained disaster response workers by undergoing eight-hour training sessions at First Pulaski UMC, led by Ricky Hill of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

On May 12-13, nine members of the Wytheville District received certificates for Disaster Case Management: Alana Yates (Marvin), Rev. Maria Grimm (Cripple Creek Circuit), Janet Richardson (Gladeville), Rev. Leroy Henry (Randolph Ave/Slaughter's Chapel), Jim Kelly (First Pulaski), Beth Day (First Hillsville), Larry Grabman (First Galax), John Toothaker (First Pulaski) and Rev. Hugh Kilgore (First Pulaski).

On May 14, an additional 16 members received certification in Early Response: Alana Yates (Marvin), Rev. Maria Grimm (Cripple Creek Circuit), Janet Richardson (Gladeville), Jim Scott (Floyd), Jim Kelly (First Pulaski), Rev. Leroy Henry (Randoph Ave/Slaughter's Chapel), Janet Jonas (First Pulaski), Lynn Wright (Grove), Beth Day (First Hillsville), Larry Grabman (First Galax), Brent Moore (St. Paul), John Toothaker (First Pulaski), Rev. Hugh Kilgore (First Pulaski), Shirley Varn (First Hillsville), Jerry Varn (First Hillsville), and Marty Goad (Mt. Olivet). The Rev. Stephen Burkhart, Carter County Parish pastor in Johnson City District, also received Early Response certification. (See detailed article with photo).

Send your local church news and photos to thecall@holston.org.