Celebrating the Past, Building for the Future

By Rick Wolcott*

The lyrics from the 1982 John W. Thompson, Randy Scruggs hymn Sanctuary[i] describe the work of East Ohio United Methodist Church congregations that everyday are the living hands and feet of Jesus Christ in their communities.

Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
With thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You

New Leaf UMC GroundbreakingMembers of New Leaf UMC (Western Reserve District) sang the hymn September 14 as they broke ground in Conneaut for a new worship center. The 1,000-seat flex facility, which sits adjacent to a former doctor’s office that has been transformed by the church into the New Leaf Child Care and Learning Center, will also be used by the city of Conneaut as a civic and cultural center.

“It’s what happens when a group of people decide to do something for the community, the community shows up,” New Leaf UMC pastor, the Rev. Scott Walsh said. “We want to help the community grow in every way, to be healthy – physically, spiritually and economically.”

New Leaf UMC was not the only church looking forward by celebrating those who laid the groundwork in the past. Hudson UMC, Spencer UMC, Garfield Memorial UMC, and Brecksville UMC all recognized landmark occasions in the past week.

FoCurrent and former Hudson UMC PastorsHudson UMC (Canal District) held a special Saturday afternoon service September 13 followed by a catered dinner to honor its 50th anniversary.

“We joyfully celebrate that more than 250 current and past parishioners, former pastors and their spouses, laity called into ordained ministry through the local church, and other guests from across the country took part in the anniversary activities,” the Rev. Hoyte Wilhelm said.  “We are excited to live faithfully into the future with God’s leading work through the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit to advance the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of Hudson and beyond.”

Spencer UMC Celebrates 175th AnniversarySpencer UMC (Firelands District) celebrated its 175th anniversary with a sermon from EOC Director of Connectional Ministries the Rev. Steve Court and with District Superintendent the Rev. Judy Wismar Claycomb, and former pastors of the church in attendance.

“It is humbling to think of the many faithful saints that have helped grow and sustain the ministry at Spencer UMC,” said the Rev. Lenore Robinson. “What a witness to the power of God’s love!”

Garfield Memorial UMCGarfield Memorial UMC (North Coast District) acknowledged its own 175-year heritage with 200 members joining Bishop John Hopkins in dedicating a $3.2 million renovation at the church in Pepper Pike.

The build included a brand new Kidz Space Children’s Theater with secure Mission Control Check-In; a new Main Lobby with Café, in what used to be the church courtyard; and renovated entrances with expanded gathering space.

“We are so grateful for the transformation that’s taken place here to our facility, the transformation that’s taken place in our ministry as we’re extending out to the city to say ‘greater things are yet to come’ in two locations,” the Rev. Chip Freed told the congregation during the service.

“Garfield Memorial is the most diverse congregation I have worshipped with in several years,” Bishop Hopkins said.  “Everyone is in ministry reaching people with the love of Christ beyond all imaginable boundaries.  I don’t know many congregations that have made a $3.2 million major renovation to keep up with their ministries and gave sacrificially in order not to have any mortgage.”

Rev. Clark SteinDuring the Sept. 21 service celebrating 200 years of Brecksville UMC (North Coast District), the Rev. Clark Stein preached from Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.

Early in the morning a farmer hired workers to tend to his vineyard. He told them they would be paid a day’s wage. Throughout the day he hired additional workers, telling them he would pay them what was fair. At the end of the day, the farmer paid all the workers the same amount – a full day’s wage.

Stein began his sermon standing on a ladder to illustrate that most people think we move up a rung for good deeds and down a rung for bad ones. The parable was a message, though, that we, the workers, are all treaded the same by God, the farmer.

He read the names of past clergy and laity who have played a role in the congregation’s ministry while noting that they were, “all workers in the vineyard doing what they could with what they had, and finding always that it is enough,” he said. “They were faithful and here we are 200 years later the people who now make up the vineyard of Brecksville, Ohio beneficiaries please of not being here from the beginning but showing up for work just the same. And this vineyard is still characterized by the owner’s generosity and mercy.”

Stein concluded the sermon by asking the congregation to “put our ladders away and live faithfully.”

The sermon was preached at Brecksville UMC but it applies to all East Ohio Conference congregations that have celebrated or will celebrate ministry anniversaries while casting their eyes to the future.

*Rick Wolcott is director of communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.


[i] Sanctuary

John W. Thompson & Randy Scruggs

1982 Full Armor Publishing Company   (Admin. by peermusic)
Whole Armor Publishing Company   (Admin. by peermusic)

CCLI #3245220