By Rick Wolcott*
In her 2017 Episcopal Address, Bishop Tracy S. Malone challenged and encouraged every East Ohio Conference church – regardless of size, location or demographic makeup – to commit to engage in at least one new, bold, courageous ministry that would share the love of Christ, expand the church’s reach beyond its four walls, deepen the church’s relationship with its community, and engage in justice and advocacy.
Pastor Pat Schneider took the bishop’s words to heart.
Last fall the part-time local pastor serving Vickery UMC (Firelands District) challenged the church’s 12-15 weekly worshippers to raise $300 for missions. The money would be donated to Teen Challenge of the Firelands, which uses Christian faith-based principles to free women from drug and alcohol addiction. Schneider set a deadline by which the money needed to be raised. As extra incentive, she promised the congregation that if it raised the money she would allow one of the church’s members to throw a pie in her face during worship on mission Sunday.
The congregation raised the money, and Schneider kept her promise.
This year, she asked the congregation to raise $325 for Liberty Center of Sandusky County, which provides temporary shelter and other services for families in need. She told the congregation that if it raised the money she would kiss a pig.
October 14 was mission Sunday at Vickery UMC, with Schneider’s sermon grounded in Matthew 25: 31-47. At the conclusion of her message, she announced that the congregation had exceeded its goal. Liberty Center Executive Director Margaret Weisz was called forward and presented with a check for $382.
“I am happy and proud that you accepted the challenge,” Schneider told the congregation. “Today you have helped those in need and because of that, you have helped Jesus.”
Weisz thanked the congregation for its generosity.
“This is such an amazing gift. It’s everybody doing what they can that helps us do what we can for those in need,” she said before sharing information about how Liberty Center helps its clients get back on their feet.
Then the congregation headed to the parking lot. There, Schneider met the pig that had been transported to the church by a community member with family ties to Vickery UMC.
After a brief time of getting acquainted, Schneider kissed the pig – and the congregation applauded.
“I appreciate that our pastor challenges us to be the church,” said Tony Factor.
Lay Leader Paul Parkhurst added, “We’re a small church but we are an active church that does what it can to help others.”
How has your church responded to Bishop Malone’s challenge? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.