Eighty-five years ago, on October 30, 1938, the cornerstones from Bethany Methodist Church and West Park Methodist Church were laid in place in the new Christ Methodist Church building. Just over a year later, on November 26, 1939, the first services were held in the new sanctuary. At that time, the church records show 632 members.

To say that things have changed, of course, would be a huge understatement. The neighborhood of West Park, in those days, was a walking neighborhood with corner stores and factories just down the street. Church on Sundays, complete with fancy outfits (remember Sunday clothes?) was understood as part of weekly life. Many of the residents here were firefighters and police officers. Job security was high. And the church was filled with young families – there were 369 students in the Sunday school.

Our neighborhood looks different these days. Many of the factories have closed. Church attendance is down not just in this neighborhood but around the country. A “regular church attender” is now considered someone who goes to church once or twice a month, not once a week.

It might be easy for us to get discouraged thinking about the way things used to be. In a seminar I attended last week, we were reminded of the difference between “nostalgia” and “yearning”. Nostalgia can be defined as remembering things with fondness while looking toward the future. Yearning is more of a longing and wanting things to be the way they used to be, getting stuck in the past.

And yet, West Park is still a vibrant and exciting neighborhood, with great restaurants, wonderful community events, and diverse cultures. Our church now has 149 members on the rolls, and these folks support the community with a monthly community meal, a food pantry box, and plots at our community garden that have raised over 700 pounds of produce this year – all of it given away to any who have need.

Spiritually, the church not only has an ongoing and dedicated prayer ministry, but an active and faith focused choir. Next week we will begin a Disciple Bible study with 23 people signed up! That’s more than 25% of our average Sunday worship attendance.

So, what is next? Many of you contribute to this church in so many ways, through your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness, as your membership vows state. How can we keep our presence here? How can we continue to be a strong presence in this community?

In the next weeks we will be commencing our annual stewardship campaign. It is necessary and important for us to consider how we are doing financially and how we will move forward in the future. As we look back with nostalgia, let us look forward with hope, and let us give of our resources as we are able, knowing it is God who has gifted us with all.

And of course
Fear Not

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