Forrest Chapel UMC welcomes prayed-for new members

July 14, 2023

About a year ago, a small group of church members at Forrest Chapel UMC in Hartselle embarked on a prayer journey.

The group began meeting right after Sunday morning worship service each week to pray. The time was brief and to the point. The prayer was for God to send the church five new families.

Jennie Turney, a longtime member of the congregation, shared that her daughter's large church in another state was praying for 25 new families. She challenged her own church to do the same on a smaller scale. They decided to pray for God to send five new families. 

"For a small country church, this seemed like a big ask!" said Patty Andrews. "We hadn't really grown at such a rate over the last several years."

The group decided not to have any big events to attract people. They were just going to pray. They met in a room off the narthex for about five minutes of prayer each week. Six to eight people were involved, taking turns leading the prayer time.

"We didn’t have strangers immediately lining up at the door, begging to join," said Andrews. "We didn’t even have a strategic plan of action. We just had a real desire to share the love of Christ with our friends, family and community, offer a place to meet together to worship God and provide space to experience the love of God, the peace of Christ, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit."

Since the group started praying, Forest Chapel has added six new members. "We are very thankful for our six new members, and for God’s love, mercy and grace," she said. "God is so faithful!"

Rev. Jonathan Todd, newly appointed to the church, was impressed. "One of the sacred God-given gifts of a United Methodist minister is to discover the image of Jesus Christ and to encounter the work of the Holy Spirit present at a new appointment," he said. "During a season of turmoil in the UMC, it is exciting to see a congregation centering on making disciples of Jesus Christ. Forrest Chapel accomplishes this with the Christ-like work of genuine and loving hospitality. In a simple yet sincere commitment to prayer, the congregation prayed for God to bring five new families to the church. By the time I arrived, God had answered this prayer."

They also didn't have a preconceived notion of the definition of family. "We are a welcoming congregation. We will welcome whoever God sends us," said Andrews. New members received into the congregation included someone recently widowed, a transfer from another denomination and some folks from a nearby disaffiliated United Methodist Church. "Of course, the children's director was praying for families with kids," she said with a laugh.

"Knowing that God is working in and through this congregation is inspiring as a newly appointed minister," said Rev. Todd. "I work to discover what God is doing and find ways to accomplish the work."

District Superintendent Rev. Vicki Cater was impressed as well. "A lot of churches talk about prayer, teach and preach about prayer. But Forrest Chapel UMC got down on their knees and prayed. Their hearts were in agreement with God’s will and their prayers were answered. Exciting to see where their prayers will take them from here.”

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