By Leslie Bales-Sherrod/ Knoxville News Sentinel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (July 20, 2016) -- A longtime landmark in Vestal is getting a new lease on life with a growing congregation and a commitment to serving the community around it.
Vestal United Methodist Church, 115 Ogle Ave., almost tripled its membership last year, said the Rev. Kevin M. Blue, by reaching out to the people who were visiting its building for other services, such as the FISH Pantry and Beacon of Hope.
"When I came, they had 15 members," said Blue, who was appointed to Vestal UMC on July 1, 2015, and recently was reappointed for a second year. "Last year, 26 members joined, which is roughly one every two weeks."
He said he spent a lot of time during his first year at the church hanging out at the FISH Pantry, which provides food to the community on Wednesdays and Fridays, and at Beacon of Hope ministries such as the sharing shop, which provides free clothing, toiletries and household items every other Thursday.
"I would leave the parish hall unlocked, keep coffee on and people could stick around afterward," said Blue, who lived in Vestal with his family for three years before he was appointed to the church just around the corner. "Folks became acquainted with the church through the Beacon of Hope or the FISH Pantry, but now they are active members here."
Vestal congregation hopes for a comeback (The Call, 10/1/14)