October 2011 Laity News

Does your seat at Church have your name on it?

In the past this has been a real unwritten problem of ownership for United Methodist Church goers, “better not sit in my seat, maybe not even in my pew.”

Before you read the next paragraph, let me assure you, this next paragraph applies to me as well.

All of us have heard stories of mystical ownership and territorial rights of church members and their church. We all know the church and everything in it belongs to God or if we need some entity, other than God, then the Conference. Personal ownership is trivial in the church, but I had the thought, maybe it would be good, if all seats had a members name on it. I would not want my name on a seat or a pew if I were going to be absent Sunday after Sunday. An unused seat in any church can atrophy and collect dust very quickly…I’m afraid all churches have an abundance of unused seats. So, maybe we should designate seats for members in the church and then take roll by seats filled, knowing who is there, instead of total number in attendance in the sanctuary each Sunday. This would be a very unique column on the Dashboard for everyone to see…I know when I was in college at Mississippi State; I would not have wanted my parents in Kentucky, looking at my seat occupancy via the Dashboard at the First United Methodist Church of Starkville.

As it is today, we can hide from our local church but don’t lose sight, we cannot hide from God. He has his own Dashboard!!! Don’t we also hide in so many other ways from God  than just attendance at Church?

Since last writing, I have made some fun, educational and good visits to the District Lay Leaders' home churches. I have been to Talladega First United Methodist attending the Contemporary service in the church fellowship hall. Ted Petersen, the pastor, preached and everything about the service was special. We sang to music from a good band, heard a good message from Ted and took communion as well. Dr. Leigh Murphy the Cheaha District Lay Leader was my host at Talladega First UMC which is his home church. For a second service Leigh and I traveled across town to Trinity UMC of Talladega for a Traditional Service where Mike Irons preached and remembered the 9-11 tragedy of our country. Mike had a uniformed policeman and a Fireman in attendance at this service. Leigh presented Mike and Trinity UMC a picture of the church taken by a member of Talladega First UMC. Trinity was started years ago by members of Talladega First as a satellite church. This was in the early nineteen hundreds. The style of the Trinity Church is the neoclassical Romanesque style popular in our conference in the early nineteen hundreds. Several churches built in this style dot our North Alabama landscape. Alexander City First, Lineville First, Roanoke First and Lafayette First are just a few in our area.

Have we lost site of the fact that we can still start Satellite churches in this Conference?

Attending Huntsville Trinity allowed me to worship with and to visit with Betty Zoller the Northeast District Lay Leader. Trinity UMC is Betty’s and her husband Lowell’s home church. They have been members there for many years. Betty and Lowell are very active in the church with Lowell teaching the Cokesbury Sunday School class. It was good to see Charles Gattis, the senior pastor, and good to hear Charles preaching the Traditional Service and to see his wife Judy in the choir. Sherill Clontz preaches the Contemporary Service.  It was good to visit with Charles and Sherill. I also visited with clergy Matthew Reed, Abigail Carlisle-Wilke and Joe Estes.

If you have comments, suggestions or ideas to be discussed in the column please let me know…Please post comments or contact me directly. My contact information as well as the District Lay Leaders information is located in the Laity section of the conference website (www.northalabamaumc.org/laity).  Let us hear from you, as we are all in this thing called Wesleyan Methodism together…

147,000 United Methodist in this Conference minus some 1500 Clergy leaves about 145,500 Laity in the Conference….You tell me, by doing the numbers, who is responsible for the Church!!!!


Thanks for your time, 
Steve Lyles
Conference Lay Leader

By: Steve Lyles On 10/1/2011
Topics: Lay Ministry


1. JoAnn Clem wrote on 10/5/2011 1:30:55 PM
Steve, This is great encouraging information. Thank you for sharing. JoAnn Clem
2. Bill Persons, Jr wrote on 10/7/2011 10:59:16 AM
You are quite right in suggesting names be placed on seats in the pews of our churches! I'm going to suggest putting names in another place in our Methodist scheme of things, THE SEATS AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE. So many of our preachers and delegates to Conference just do not show up, or, they have someone else turn in their little attendance tickets. AND, section the Conference off by District, so the DS can see who is not there for each session, if the DS is there.
3. Steve Lyles wrote on 10/9/2011 8:59:29 AM
JoAnn Clem and Bill Persons, thanks for posting on my Blog. I wish more would share their thoughts as we all need to get involved in saving and making our chuches grow. I would like to know how many more read Laity these Blogs.
4. Beth A. Hawkins wrote on 10/22/2011 7:28:04 PM
I attended Lay Speaker Training - Southwest District today and what a wonderful blessing I received. The Southwest District is blessed with wonderful Lay Leaders. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this training session.