After reading the letter from the Bishop last week I was inspired to write this letter. I arrived at Hayden almost four years ago and it was a quiet little rural town, just like most other small towns in
I had previously met the pastor and four of the members of Hayden U. M. C. one Sunday in Oneonta having lunch. He had carried Joyce Russell and three of her granddaughters who played the violin at the church to lunch that Sunday. At my previous church I didn't even have a piano player. My commit was, “What I would give to have three violinists in my church." The next year I was appointed to Hayden U. M. C.
Upon arriving at Hayden the attendance was running around 59 on average each Sunday. I didn't make many changes to begin with we just worshiped God. We had three Sunday school teachers and after giving a gifts test to those who would participate we found out we didn't have anyone with the gifts for teaching. So what next? We started praying for God to send us the people we needed to take this church in the direction God had planned for it.
The first year God sent a few people, to be exact five. The next year we started the year with a round table discussion. We listed the things we wanted to accomplish in fulfilling God's plan the next couple of years. One of the major goals was to build a family life center. One of the violinist donated $120.00 to start the fund, she was sixteen years of age at the time. In the next two years we collected from donations over $100,000.00 toward this project. We broke ground in June 2008 and should be in the building by June 2009.
The second year our attendance grew to 61. Inch by inch it's a cinch. God started sending the people we needed to fill different positions in leadership. This broke loose the third year and our attendance rose to 72. There seems to be something in the number of three, after the third year things began to happen even more. People began to see stability in our church. We started focusing outside the four walls on mission and outreach. We have participated in community activities since my first year and sponsored a 5th Sunday singing where we gather with several other churches and each provides a singing group. Last year our average attendance grew to 92. I decided that we needed more grounding in the Methodist beliefs so I started preaching sermons on our beliefs because we were bringing people from several different denominations.
After I preached on baptism and our beliefs on this sacrament we did thirteen baptisms. Since January we have taken in eight new members, which bring our total to 144 members with an attendance of around 100. Six of the thirteen were infants or children baptisms and the other seven were confessions of faith and some of these confessions were from adults in their sixties.
We added two adult Sunday school classes and one pre-teen class. Two of our adult classes run an average of 25 on Sunday mornings and each of the children classes around 10. This brings our total Sunday school program to approximately 75. By the way this church was founded in 1828. Thanks be to God. Older churches can be revived by the power of God.
Three years ago the North Alabama Conference opened a new church in our community. Thanks Bishop Willimon. I believe this added fuel to the fire by opening the eyes of my congregation. It wasn't that we had competition but that there is room for churches that have a different vision in reaching the lost. That is they have a different way of presenting the Gospel which may touch the lives in a way that we can't. My first response was to welcome the pastor into the community. We have developed a great relationship since then. From what I can see both churches are growing and adding to the United Methodist fellowship.