As part of the Congregational Development report during the 2012 North Alabama Annual Conference, Director of the Center for Congregational Development Rev. Matt Jones announced that the Conference would start four new congregations this year. One of those congregations is actually an existing congregation that has chosen to make a major transition in order to better reach its community.
East Gadsden United Methodist Church is a historic congregation that prided itself on its heritage and connection to its neighborhood. However, in recent decades, as the neighborhood around the church changed, the congregation was static. The resulting cultural and racial differences between the congregation and its neighbors led to the congregation not fully being in ministry to the community.
However, through a process of prayer and visioning, the congregation made the bold decision to choose not to die clinging to its history, but instead to make the changes necessary to live and be the church God is calling them to be in their neighborhood.
During the Annual Conference report, Rev. Jones noted that he is often cautious when an established congregation asks for help to transition into a new congregation. However, when he met with the East Gadsden congregation they explained the first step they took in their process was to “get down on their knees and repent for feeling like they must remain an all-white congregation in a non-white neighborhood.”
During the Congregational Development report Mountain Lakes District Superintendent Robin Scott, explained there was growing excitement for the possibilities in East Gadsden. He noted that as the congregation was planning and preparing for a new start, partnerships with other area congregations - both United Methodists and other denominations - had already begun to form.
As the East Gadsden UMC congregation prepared itself for the transition, they worked with a student to produce the following video to tell their story.
At Annual Conference, Troy Walker was appointed to East Gadsden UMC as Senior Pastor. Rev. Diane Housler was appointed as the Associate Pastor.
In the video, Troy Walker reflects that in America many churches have "been ministering basically to ourselves, but the mission of Christ includes people. God loves people. Jesus loves people. In fact, he said if we can't love our neighbor, how can we love you? So many times in the church we've gotten to the point we've loved each other - we've loved each other into the Kingdom - then we've stopped there. But in our vision here at East Gadsden, it's about the people."
Following moving day, The Gadsden Times did a feature on Troy's appointment to the congregation. You can read that story at www.gadsdentimes.com/article/20120615/NEWS/120619848
For more information about how your congregation can support the ministry of East Gadsden UMC, contact the Mountain Lakes District Office or the Center for Congregational Development.