Six congregations received special recognition by the Oklahoma United Methodist Rural Fellowship (UMRF) during that group’s Annual Conference banquet on May 29.
Town/Rural Church Awards went to: Delaware, Elmore City, and Wetumka, which average worship attendance of 40 or fewer people; and Nowata, Ringling, and Vian, where attendance averages 41 to 100.
"Their innovative programs serve as a wonderful example of how each church can re-ignite the love of Christ, no matter their size," stated the banquet bulletin.
Here are a few highlights for each church.
- Elmore City UMC has changed its culture from "having church" to "being the church." A casual worship service is new; a Wednesday night meal/Bible study launched recently. The church opened the only food bank in this town of about 700. And an Internet video ministry reaches about 300 people weekly.
- Averaging 18 in worship, Delaware UMC has two major outreach programs. Bible Zone is a children’s after-school program on Tuesdays. And a quilt ministry has provided about 600 small quilts across four years to people both nearby and as far away as Africa.
- At Wetumka UMC, programming frames this small congregation’s love for the Lord. The "Angel Pillow" project serves children who do not have their own pillows or blankets. New socks are free from the church’s Clothes Closet. And the "Home for Christmas" evangelism project included Christmas goodies for all.
- Nowata UMC members take to heart Jesus’ charge of "Feed my sheep." They served a bereavement dinner to 50 people in a family unaffiliated with the church. And a weekly meal feeds about 280 people in this town of 3,731. The meal is fully funded by donations.
- The century-old Ringling UMC recently paid in full the debt on its $1.1 million building addition, which includes a community playground. An active youth group participates at district and Conference levels, too.
- Vian UMC discarded its mindset as an aging, declining congregation and became a church of growth and energy. An outdoor gazebo was built for both church and community events. Vacation Bible School was held for the first time in many years, a youth group launched, and a praise band formed. A Wednesday evening worship service is new, and the church hosts community "Nights of Praise."
UMRF officers are: Claudean Harrison, president; Sheri Lashley, vice president; Marsha Purtell, secretary; and Dave Karges, treasurer.
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