The first three months have flown by as your new pastor. My husband, Marty, and I moved to Elsberry at the end of June and began serving the community July 1. It's been a joy getting to know the people of Elsberry and the members of EUMC. I've enjoyed every lunch, dinner and coffee meeting, and I'm still available if you haven't scheduled a time to meet with me yet.
Hearing the stories from those who have been part of the church for decades has been inspirational and informative. I've loved watching several generations of a family worshiping together and meeting more recent members too.
I'm thankful that we have an online worship opportunity each week as it touches the lives of those who live out of the area, those who are home-bound, those who are sick and those who might be traveling for work/vacation. We hope to keep making improvements to our technology so that our in person and online worship offers our very best as we connect with God and each other.
EUMC has welcomed back members this summer that we haven't seen since before the world got weird with the pandemic and we have been blessed with several first time guests over the last two months too. And some of them have become repeating guests with interests in serving others through the church.
We had an infant baptism on October 9 as I had the privilege of baptizing my grandson. Average attendance from January to June was about 35 and we are now averaging 50 with 74 in attendance for the baptism (only 12 of them were family members from out of the area).
Volunteers are working to update our membership roles and information to update addresses, emails and phone numbers. I thank Joyce Ross, Carolyn Black and Phyllis Halley for working to try and keep the information current without a database. We now have a database for centralized record keeping through a computer program called Realm as well as the long standing membership book. (Since the church budget is extremely tight, I am paying for the database out of my salary for now). You may receive requests for information verification soon. If your information has changed in the last 3 years, please email or call the church with the updates.
The last couple of decades have been hard on churches for many reasons, externally and internally. And the pandemic just accelerated the decline as many churches were already struggling to accomplish the mission of making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. EUMC has been impacted as previous church leaders have become home-bound or passed on to glory. And people's habits related to worship attendance, giving and community involvement have changed over the years.
But we are seeing great things happening in just a short amount of time at Elsberry UMC. We are focusing on remembering our mission from Christ and developing our leadership gifts. We are looking at the community to see where the greatest needs are and how the gifts of our congregation can impact those needs in Jesus' name. We are continuing to partner with Care Services to offer a food pantry in the old LaCrosse office building. We are picking up children on Sunday mornings to Feed 'em, Teach 'em and Love 'em with the hope of Christ.
We are creating family friendly worship experiences that allow for several generations to worship God together. We are looking at new ways of doing family ministry so that we help children grow in faith by also helping to support the parents with tools and encouragement they can use.
We look forward to the way God will use EUMC to touch the lives of others in the next decade and beyond, just as it has touched so many lives in its 140 plus years of legacy living. Here's what we need to grow:
1) Lots of people praying daily for the growth of our church - both spiritual and numerical growth;
2) Every member to be part of the mission with their time and talents;
3) Consistent contributions to the ministry budget;
4) Community connection activities that build relationships of grace in Jesus' name.
I believe that the best is yet to come. Will you believe with me?
Grace & peace,