By Rick Wolcott*
It seems the colder it gets, the more people that turn out to hear the Good News!
Last December 21 during a Christmas candlelight service, 85 people ignored the 30 degree weather to hear the word of God and enjoy Christmas carols on the square in Carrollton.
Fast forward to March 28 when 240 people came out for an Easter egg hunt on a day that began with the thermometer reading 12 degrees!
“It was exciting to see so many from the community come to hear the resurrection story of Jesus while enjoying fun with family and friends,” said the Rev. Kimberly Arbaugh.
Welcome to The Bridge – a new satellite ministry of Carrollton First United Methodist Church (Ohio Valley District).
“People all around hunger for God, for connection, for purpose,” said the Rev. Jim Winkler, superintendent of the Ohio Valley District. “We as the church have to be creative and diligent to find ways to reach people that are relevant.”
The idea that has become The Bridge was birthed in the fall of 2012 when the congregation of Carrollton First UMC, under the leadership of the Rev. Dan Loomis, found itself with a significant surplus in the church’s general fund.
Following a year of meetings, brainstorming sessions, and prayer, the congregation – intent on starting an off-site worship service – asked Bishop Hopkins to appoint an associate pastor to the church.
Arbaugh was appointed on July 1, 2014 and began working with coach Kim Griffith, who conducted a boot camp for church leaders. The sessions walked the team through the steps for successfully starting a third worship service that would be held at a satellite location.
The service got its name because it “catches the spirit of the mission to bridge the distance between generations, between church and community, between people and God,” Winkler explained.
More than 120 people attended the first of many preview services that were held at various locations in town – either on Saturday evening, Sunday evening or Sunday morning – beginning last fall before the church found its new home, the Rosebud Mining Facility at the Carroll County Fairgrounds in Carrollton.
“Rev. Arbaugh is part of a farm family and has been heavily involved in the county fair and 4-H with her family for years,” Winkler said. “Already plans are in place to offer outdoor worship during Fair Week next summer.”
“There are no statistics that can explain the power of the Holy Spirit when it starts working,” Arbaugh said. “We get Facebook messages from the mother of a 12-year-old boy that include a picture of her son’s Instagram bio quoting the Scripture I preached on the day before at our preview with this comment attached: ‘He said he loves your church because of how you interact with the congregation, how relaxed the atmosphere is. I loved how he took the message and put it into his everyday! Thanks so much.’”
Services will be in the Rosebud Mining Facility at 10am each Sunday in April. The Bridge will also hold its next Line/Square Dance there on Saturday, May 2 from 8-11 pm. Admission price for the dance is the donation of a non-perishable food or a toiletry item, which will benefit The Urban Mission in Steubenville.
“The Bridge is already making connections with the community, bridging gaps to the praise and glory of God. Let’s see what God can do as we follow God’s will, God’s way,” Winkler said.
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.