I grew up attending a Baptist church in Maryville, Tennessee. When we moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, we found a church that we really liked: Sunrise United Methodist Church. I really liked being part of the UMC, and so when we moved back to Tennessee, that’s what we looked for.
When we visited St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Louisville, I knew we had found a home. We basically just attended Sunrise, but I immersed myself in St. Mark’s for 25 years. I was administrative council secretary for 18 years. I sang in the choir. I was on the cooking team for Wednesday night dinner, and was on just about every other team there was. I really loved that church.
Things started to change for me in recent years. A pastor was appointed there who was already involved in the Wesleyan Covenant Association. I was leading a Sunday school class that was talking about LGTBQ people one day, and I suddenly realized that just one or two other people in the class believed like me. I held my tongue so many times.
The pandemic was good for me. It gave me time to research, read the Bible and pray and not have to go and face people at church for a while. I decided that I love God and I like the United Methodist faith and tradition, but St. Mark’s had gone a different way than me.
When I visited Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa, at first, it was hard. It just hurt me to leave St. Mark’s. After 25 years, I was so involved. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid.
But there was something about Green Meadow. It seemed so tiny at first, but it’s a diverse congregation that loves everybody. They’re growing with new people, including some friends who also left St. Mark’s. I’m trying not to get so involved at Green Meadow, and I really can’t right now, because I take fulltime care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s. But when I go there and sit down, it’s like a therapy session for me. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted, and I’ve found where I need to be now.
If I am judged, I would much rather be judged by who I included in the church than who I excluded. I just think we shouldn’t be excluding anybody. I hope the exclusive language in the Book of Discipline is changed at the next General Conference.
Other stories in this series:
Part 1: Vickie Rogers - "I took my membership vows seriously"
Part 2: Rev. Sam Dzobo - "I experienced amazing, amazing love"
Part 4: Joanna Corvin - "Our faith is ingrained in how we live"
Part 5: Eli Bray - "I believe God is calling me to serve here"
Part 6: Rev. Jason Mullins - "I am proud of our effort to be a community"
If you are a member of a disaffiliating congregation who wishes to stay in the UMC, please visit the Invitation Team's web page for resources designed for you.
If you wish to share your "Why I Stayed" story, please email email@example.com. Holston Conference includes member churches in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia, with main offices in Alcoa, Tennessee. Sign up for a free email subscription to The Call.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.