New purpose opens doors of closed church -- Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation insights
Two sisters, from Fitzhugh United Methodist Church, heard about the closing of Roff UMC and were saddened to think of that ending in the neighboring community.
Months passed. Driving through Roff on a summer day, Lynn Cordial and Sherry Jones decided to stop at the abandoned church. They peered through windows into the locked sanctuary.
"We couldn’t believe it. We saw Christmas decorations still up and Bibles and hymnals still open on the pews. It was as if everyone left after church and planned to come back the next Sunday," said Lynn.
Lynn and Sherry had moved from Texas to Fitzhugh, to care for their mother. They had years of volunteer experience at large UM churches prior to their move.
The sisters were unsure what awaited them in this new chapter of their lives, but they were open to what God wanted for them.
And after seeing firsthand the closed church, they began dreaming of opportunities the building could offer to residents in and around Roff.
The community is southwest of Ada. According to the 2010 Census, 725 people live in Roff (zip code population of 1,711), and median household income is $21,776.
The United Methodist Church is not the only church in town that has closed. Lack of attendance and financial resources has shuttered most.
Lynn and Sherry began seeking ways to raise money to reconnect utilities at the former UM church as they also sought ways the community could benefit.
Fitzhugh UMC’s Health and Wellness Committee spearheaded the Roff Outreach Mission, identifying immediate needs. With help from church members, local businesses, fundraisers, and a Petree Grant from the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation, the Mission officially opened in Fall 2012.
"Ministries likes these are not just for big churches. Our little Fitzhugh church can make a difference. Everyone plays their part; we have all ages help with the Mission in some capacity," said Sherry
Roff UMC closed Dec. 31, 2011. Today the Roff Outreach Mission stocks a diaper closet for families in need. The founders spoke of a teenage single father who received those for his child. The Mission houses Jerry’s Closet, a collection of medical equipment that is given away or loaned, including wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches. There also is a food pantry.
Sewing classes will soon begin there, led by the local 4-H Club.
Lynn and Sherry have even bigger dreams. The former church could accommodate weddings and funerals for low-income families. Quilting groups, support groups, and after-school programs could meet there.
"Our purpose is to shepherd those in Roff and the surrounding areas. We must never underestimate the little things we do to demonstrate God’s love to people," said Lynn. "We love getting to know so many people in the community, and God is opening doors for us that we never imagined."
Since 1996, the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation’s Petree Grant Fund has awarded more than $1.6 million to UM ministries and churches in the state. Applications for the next round of grants will be available this summer on the Foundation’s website, www.okumf.org.
For more information, contact Barbara Gayle at the Foundation, 800-259-6863.