Churches in the county offer hope for the future
During the past month or so, I have found myself at three different churches. Coincidentally, all of them were Methodist, yet each worship experience was unique.
During the centennial celebrations at Lake Junaluska, Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, spoke not only of Lake Junaluska's past, but of its future.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Bishop Abrahams speak, it is something I’d highly recommend. His vision of Christianity is something the says is not written on paper or read about in books. It is practical marching orders, so to speak, for doing as Jesus commands in the Bible.
“We need to wear our vision on our rolled-up sleeves. Let us be the story. Let us live the story as we offer our service to a bruised and broken world," he elegantly told a crowd gathered at Stuart Auditorium.
While acknowledging the troubles and challenges facing the world today, Abrahams looks beyond, focusing on a world filled with hope and possibilities.
"God is ready, willing and able to do for you and for me far more than we can think or imagine," he said. "We need to celebrate with renewed confidence."
Bishop Abrahams global view is one that can benefit us all, and his words certainly provide food for thought.
At the invitation of one of our religion columnists, I attended services at Francis Cove United Methodist Church the next Sunday. Retired minister Richard Ploch was presiding during a transition week at the church, and his wife, Carol, sought me out so I wasn’t sitting alone. I’ll always remember her words — “You have a lovely voice.” My husband often says I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and for the most part, I agree. But there’s just something about hymns sang loudly that make perfect pitch not so important.
What impressed me most about Francis Cove, a small community church between Bethel and Waynesville, was the close-knit nature of the congregation. After the music and before preaching began in earnest, the Rev. Ploch asked for any special prayer requests. The next 15 to 20 minutes provided insight into practically every family in the church — whether they were there or not.
It was a reporter’s dream, actually, as it was an efficient way to learn who was celebrating, who was suffering, who was vacationing — where, and what special acts of kindness or service had been performed during the past week. If I could gather all the information tidbits we use as story leads by having those in the know gather 'round, it would be wonderful!
Even my son, who works as a physical therapist doing home health care in Haywood and Buncombe counties, was mentioned when one of his patients publicly welcomed me and said I was the mother of the young man he spoke about the week before. What a small world.
The message was inspiring, but it was the cammeraderie at Francis Cove that was most touching. This is a church where everyone generally cares about one another and about the work they are doing in the community, whether it is through their community garden they share with others, their work at the area elementary school or other outreach efforts.
Most recently, I visited Maggie Valley United Methodist Church where the youth group was kicking off a nearly three-month long campaign to benefit the "Million Coin: Cash Conquers Cold" effort.
In case you are not familiar with this, it is a community-wide campaign to help people stay warm during the winter months, whether it is through defraying the cost of the emergency shelter, providing infrared heaters or simply buying blankets.
A million coins is a lot, and as a community, we're only about a third of the way there. Having Maggie Valley United Methodist Church pledge its support is wonderful, and perhaps they can inspire other churches in the community to do the same. The thing is, who will really miss a few coins, and if everybody gives a container full, we can perhaps raise $200,000 for this effort. (The Mountaineer designed the promotional materials, so if you'd like to help, let me know.)
In just one visit, it was easy to see that this church is a powerful force for good in the valley. The church service projects are numerous, and members regularly donate unneeded but useful items which are regularly sold at Saturday sales in a barn on the property.
It was a wonderful experience to learn not only how different groups worship, but how they put their faith on the line daily in service to others. With nearly 200 churches in the county, it is easy to have hope for the future — at least in our small corner of the world.