Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer in Downtown Grandy

You could probably drive through Grandy, NC, and not really notice it. It's not that there's nothing here to see. It's just that in this part of the state, the first peninsula west of the Outer Banks, it would just seem like another one of the towns that run together on your way down the highway to the beach. I've heard the members of one of my churches, Mt. Zion UMC, use the phrase "downtown Grandy", and I think it's used with a bit of jest. "Downtown Grandy" is a few restaurants, a couple of gas stations, and a grocery store. The only thing you might notice is Mt. Zion and its parsonage (where I'm staying for the summer). At the heart of town sits one of my churches.

On the front of the Mt. Zion bulletin every Sunday is the phrase "The Cradle of North Carolina Methodism". It's one of several churches in the area founded in the 1770's when the Methodist movement first reached the American colonies. For a church to have that kind of longevity is really remarkable. Mt. Zion is a very welcoming congregation and seems to have a long history of being that way. Right now, there are around 100 in worship each Sunday, with some other ministries active during the week. It's growing a bit, but in my talks with the pastor (David Blackman), we've agreed that there is potential here for much more. I think that assesment can be made for a lot of United Methodist churches: doing alright, but not doing enough.

The other church in the charge, Hebron UMC, is a few miles south of Mt. Zion. I think it is also representative of many churches in the UMC. Weekly attendance at Hebron is between 10 and 15. It has had one profession of faith in my pastor's tenure (3 years). Last Sunday, it had its first fellowship event in several years. Hebron may well be short-listed for closure in the next few years, and the congregation seems resigned to that fate. They still care deeply about their church and are good, faithful people. Pastor David has been working to get them more involved in the community, but it seems to be an uphill battle. With a larger, more active church also part of the charge, Hebron often gets short-changed on the time David can devote to ministry with it.

I'm excited to be in a placement where I can be in ministry with two very different churches with very different challenges. I think I will learn a lot, and I know I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve in a wide variety of ways. This is a community that needs these churches to be beacons of God's light and love, and I pray that I will see that happen this summer and be a part of what God is doing in Grandy. If I'm sure of anything, it's that God is still at work here, and it's a blessing to see it. This will be fun.

Grace and peace to you.