5% Challenge: Harrington Heights UMC reaching For a New Day
Reaching For a New Day!
by Bridget E. Dowdy, Pastor
Perhaps it was the living sermon on the Great Commission that stretched those who responded to the call to go out to pray for community members, while others remained in worship to pray. Perhaps it was the September 11, 2005, homecoming event that rekindled the desire to grow - the church was nearly full and our worship together was celebratory and joyful. Perhaps it was the faithful four who presented themselves each Sunday; who heard the promises of God for the remnant of faith. Perhaps it was God's timing!
It was time to make a decision regarding the future of this church organized in 1942. On January 29, 2006, members of the Harrington Heights UMC congregation met for conversation, supper, and communion. All agreed that we must take whatever financial risks were necessary to offer Jesus to those in our community. The decision was made to reach for a new day serving Christ, renewing our facilities, and providing ministries for children and youth (and their families)! With our new vision for ministry and mission in place, the work unexpectedly began that very evening.
Creating an attractive, comfortable space where children and youth can come to learn about Jesus and choose to be his disciples has been a labor of love. The members have invested themselves 100% in the vision by giving of their time, resources, talents, and prayers. Folks from other churches have labored alongside us as well; those from Lanett First UMC, Lebanon Presbyterian Church, and Lafayette First UMC.
Even a love offering received from a former member affirmed our vision in a very special way. When she was a child, Lois and her unchurched family moved two doors down from Harrington Heights UMC. I could walk to the church by myself, and those people just loved me and made me feel so welcome. Lois shared with us that she had been praying for the future of the little church where she had been introduced to Christ and where she and her husband Huey had been the first couple to marry.
While the transformation of our church facility and grounds is exciting, I am most amazed with the transformation of the few who have made the commitment to reach for a new day (grow). Members are excited! They are inviting everyone they know to come to church. Members have embraced the hope for a future through ministry and service in the name of Christ. They are telling others about their vision. The bonds of community have been strengthened through their cooperation and labor for the sake of the mission.
Since that evening in January, three of our constituent members, representing three generations of one family, have been baptized and received into membership. A member who has an autistic grandson has stepped forward to take the lead in organizing an Autism Support/Awareness Group, giving our church the opportunity to minister to autistic children and their families. Worship attendance has grown from the faithful four to an average of twelve to twenty-one.