|Fun fills Friday family night on Easter weekend 2012.
The story of Gerty UMC proves that wherever faithful Christian outreach occurs, God’s church can grow. The tiny town between Ada and McAlester is in Ardmore District, and former Superintendent Guy Ames shared this story of transformation.
"When I first drove into Gerty, I had to take a dirt road. The community had years earlier lost the schools, but did retain a post office and gas station," Rev. Ames said.
In 2011, attendance at Gerty UMC was usually three. Worship was at 9:30 a.m. Retired clergyman Lenn Murray was pastor.
When the two-point charge changed, Rev. Murrray moved the worship time to 11 a.m.
"That’s when God began to do a new thing," said Ames.
"Lenn and the faithful began to pray about how God might use them in new ways. They decided to send out a call to children and youth who lived in and outside of Gerty—children who attend schools in Altwood, Allen, and Calvin. They invited children and adults to join them for a family fun night on Friday before Easter. Hotdogs, hamburgers, Easter eggs, and child-friendly video were the fare. Nearly 70 folks showed up." Friday family nights have continued.
By late 2011, Sunday worship attendance had climbed to about 10 people. When Murray remarried and moved out of country, layman Aaron Finney of Allen, who was licensed to preach, was asked to lead.
Finney previously had preached at Springer UMC before deploying to the Middle East. After returning to his wife and children in Allen, he sought to develop outreach to area children, and he had been assisting Murray for months at Gerty UMC.
He agreed to the new leadership role. Since that time, Ames reported, Finney has helped increase worship attendance to more than 15, new members have been added, and a Wednesday night prayer service was started.
One Wednesday night, a man entered the church after seeing cars and hearing the sounds of activity inside the little white clapboard church. He eventually approached Finney to ask, "How can I know Jesus?"
That evening the minister and congregation prayed with their new friend.
Ames concluded, "We don’t need seminary degrees or even ordination to help reach people for Jesus Christ. Lenn Murray stepped into the Gerty appointment at the age of 76, having retired from earlier appointments at least three times. Aaron Finney models the possibilities of what can happen when we link an indigenous leader to a mission field where he and the mission field speak the same language."
Brenda Mooney provided this update about Gerty UMC: worshippers totaled 23 on Easter Sunday 2012. The Friday family night drew 27 children and 17 adults.