New Way UMC Charters as New Church Start

Benita Rollins speaking on stage, charters New Way

By Rick Wolcott*

“This is historic,” Tuscarawas District Superintendent the Rev. Benita Rollins said.  “In my 36 years in ministry we have not chartered many churches.”

On a rainy summer night, parishioners gathered upstairs at the Perry Grange in Massillon – in the worship space that has been home to the New Way faith community for more than five years – to participate in, first, a constituting church conference, and then its first church charge conference.

East Ohio Conference Director of Congregational Vitality the Rev. Kelly Brown told the crowd, “This came about because faithful disciples got a vision for a new style of worship and gathered people together.

“It grew from a worship to another site to where we are now as a new congregation,” he continued.  “We need to celebrate the faithfulness of all who have gone before and the faithfulness of you gathered here tonight as we look toward the future.”

“This is really exciting!” said Keith Brown, the part-time local pastor who has served New Way since 2012.  “We keep going back to the scripture in Isaiah that says, ‘do you not see I am doing a new thing in the wasteland, in the wilderness?’”

The community of faith began life as O2, a satellite of Navarre Otterbein UMC that worshipped at T.C. Knapp Elementary School in Canton for five years.  This is the sixth year that services and meetings are being held at Perry Grange.  With the move came the name change from O2 to New Way.

“Eleven years ago we just knew we needed to get out of the church and meet people where they were – and that’s what we started with,” Pastor Keith Brown said.  “The dedication of the people sticks out to me over that time.  For five years when we were in the school we had to set up and tear down every week.  That takes a huge commitment but it also let us try new things and gave us a chance to reinvent as we went.”

During the constituting conference more than 90 people transferred their membership from Navarre Otterbein UMC to New Way UMC and six more joined the church by profession of faith.

“This is a mother/daughter model,” the Rev. Kelly Brown explained.  “A mother church birthed something new and it grows and becomes its own congregation – like Crosspoint UMC also did in the Tuscarawas District.  So this chartering is a little different than a vital merger, which becomes a new congregation but charters at the point of merger.”

“To be here tonight and see New Way charter as a new church start is really fantastic,” said the Rev. Phil Raynes, the retired Elder who was pastor of Navarre Otterbein UMC when O2 was launched.  “The people who got his church going were always forward looking and willing to take a step out of their comfort zone.  The same people started the sports ministry at Otterbein.”

“This is an opportunity for us to do something new and something different and something fresh – and that’s exciting,” said Jennifer Forney.  “I am a school teacher and I see lots of hurt in the world.  Being here is a place to heal.”

Forney was chosen, along with five others, to comprise the single board of leadership for the church.  The six serve as the nominating committee for the church, which, as in all United Methodist churches, is chaired by the pastor.  One of the six members of the single board serves as the chair of the board, a different member of the board chairs the Staff Parish Relations Committee, another chairs the Trustees Committee, and another chairs the Finance Committee.  Each of the board members serves as members on the committees that they don’t chair.

“The purpose of a single board model is to free people up from committee meetings and get them out doing the mission: making and maturing disciples; developing principled leaders, and studying God’s Word,” said Rollins, who explained that New Way UMC is the fifth church of the 77 in the Tuscarawas District to adopt the single board model.

“I like New Way better than other churches I have been to because we get into the Word and it’s not so formal,” said Logan Talkington, who will be a freshman at Kent Stark State in the fall.  “Being part of the youth group has made me want to come to church more.  I’m here every Sunday.”

After all of the explanations, nominations, discussions and voting, Rollins said the words that all in the room had come to hear.

New Way members gather for a photo

“By the authority given to me by Bishop Tracy S. Malone I now declare the New Way United Methodist Church duly organized and chartered.  Amen!”

“This has been a longtime coming as they have worked to gain critical mass financially, in terms of people, and ministry wise,” said the Rev. Kelly Brown.  “This is the right time for them to take this step and move forward.”

Rollins added, “This is new work that can bring out new people, more diverse people.  It’s exciting and I give credit to our bishop and Kelly and the Cabinet for supporting the work that is being done here.”

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

Congregation Continues Its Mission to Change the World

New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church (Tuscarawas District) celebrated Pentecost on May 20 by holding its annual Change the World Sunday.  The day began with the normal three celebrations of worship combined into one 9:00 a.m. service.  Rev. Jim Humphrey preached from James 2, putting faith into deeds and actions, and commissioned the congregation to go out into the world and put its faith into action.

Parishioners selected from more than 16 service projects.  Some built a wheelchair ramp while others demolished the interior of a house for Habitat for Humanity.  People also chose between tilling soil and planting a garden for an area group home; working with the County Board of Developmentally Disabled making gift mugs; and visiting elderly in area care centers.

One group went to the county juvenile attention center, interacted with the youth, and cooked a homemade pizza lunch.  Another group filled out thank you notes and appreciation cards for area police officers, fire fighters, and military personnel, and wrote words of encouragement to inmates in the county jail.

Volunteers worked at the Dover-New Philly Area food bank.  Youth potted flowers and delivered them throughout the community. Children pulled weeds and raked yards for the elderly.  The area group home for girls assisted in grooming animals at the county humane society.  All workers received a homemade lunch.

This is the sixth consecutive May that New Philadelphia First UMC has organized a Change the World Sunday.

“In 2017, well over 150 church and community volunteers completed over 20 projects,” Humphrey said.  “We believe that the church is the body of Christ alive and at work in our world. On this day, we simply encourage intentional acts of serving others as an expression of our faith and God’s love.”


Church Choir Director Retires after 73 Years of Service

By Rick Wolcott*

Juanita Woods with Cake

“You are our ‘Shining Star!’”

Those words, written on balloons in the Greentown United Methodist Church (Tuscarawas District) fellowship hall, express the congregation’s love for Juanita Woods.

Friends and family gathered after the final service of 2017 for a reception to celebrate Woods’ retirement as choir director, a position she has held on and off for 73 years.

Raised Lutheran, Woods joined the choir at what was then Greentown Methodist Church shortly after she was married because her husband had family members who were active in the church.  Thus began a life of service that, over the years, has led Woods to be, among other roles, choir director, children’s choir director, camp counselor, junior church leader, Sunday school teacher, and Bible study facilitator.

Juanita speaking“This church has filled my life,” Woods said.  “I’ve always felt needed.  I’ve never felt I’ve been anybody special, I really haven’t.  I’m here to do things and if there’s things to do, I do them.”

“I’ve been in the choir ever since I can remember but I also remember Juanita being my camp counselor, she was my junior high youth leader, and she directed my children in junior choir,” said Carol Lavy.  “I just can’t imagine being 94 years old and still doing the ministry she is doing!  She’s our backbone.  We are blessed.”

“Juanita’s a special person and a strong leader.  It’s more than just music that she has taught.  She’s taught Jesus and lived Jesus for the people.” Pastor Carolyn Nichols said.  “When I came here last year and was told we had a 93 year-old choir director, I started looking for a 93 year-old woman and I never found her.”

George Manos can attest to that!  He says it’s hard keeping up with his mother-in-law.

“We’re from Pittsburgh and one day I couldn’t get her on the phone at home so I kept calling.  Finally, she answered and I said, ‘Mom, where’ve you been?’ She said, ‘Well I was ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Wal-Mart.’ I said, ‘Mom, you’re 94!’ and she said, ‘yeah, so what?’”

Director singing“In my mind I don’t think I’m 94,” Woods said.

After singing a solo during her final service as choir director, Woods joined her daughter, Karen Manos, and Nichols at the front of the church for a brief celebration of her many years of service.

Manos told the congregation that as children she and her sister grew up playing in the church basement as their mother held choir practice upstairs.  She later sang with her mom in the Canton Civic Opera for 30 years.

“Music should have been Mother’s middle name,” she said.

Juanita with Pastor and daughter“We love you Juanita not just for the music over all these years but also for your love, the way you have cared for the children that you taught to sing and the adults that you have been with through Sunday school and Bible study, and the way you have touched so many lives,” Nichols said.

“I feel speechless,” said Woods before blowing a kiss of appreciation to the congregation.

Her final act as choir director was leading worshippers in singing Happy Birthday to organist Steve Dallas, a long-time friend who will succeed Wood, and will now serve as her choir director.

“Speaking for the choir, we’ll be mighty glad that she’s going to be singing with us,” said Sherryl Kostolich.

“She’s a special lady,” Dallas said.

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