Today I made a new friend, Ms. Cathleen. I got to hear her story about coming to Pine Valley United Methodist Church! She gives us a lot to think about as a growing church!
Ms. Cathleen was in a church for four years and was never asked to serve. She never felt the church was the right “fit” but could not figure out why. Every Sunday, from the pulpit, she would hear, “we welcome new comers” but she never felt welcomed. She wrestled with this because it is hard to leave a church. She visited a nearby church when she went to hear the Celebration Choir and the people were nice. It made her realize she was unhappy and had not connected with people. She needed a “warmer” church and a church where she could grow Spiritually. She said she knew there was some place in the south who would welcome a northerner! Leviticus 19:34, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
The next week, on the way to work, she felt a nudge and saw Pine Valley United Methodist Church! She had not been Methodist, although she was as a child, so maybe she could try it. Looking back, she says that was the Holy Spirit who nudged her. The next Sunday she walked into PVUMC and Sherry and Sherrill were there with smiling faces and kind words, welcoming her to PV! The smiles continued as she went into church. Pastor Tim greeted her prior to the service. The sermon “hit a note” and the music was moving which is very important to her. Many members welcomed her during the service. Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.“
In the parking lot, Pastor Tim walked up and said, “Ms. Cathleen, I’m so glad you came.” And he gave her a good old fashioned Christian hug! She said the tears just started. Pastor Tim asked her what was wrong and she asked him, “Where have you been for the last three years?” She got tickled telling me Pastor Tim’s response, “We’ve been here, where have you been?” John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” She said as she got into her car she said, “This is it!” The next Sunday she realized what a “community church” PVUMC is. She was watching PVUMC’s response to Hurricane Florence. Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Ms. Cathleen said between Tim’s sermon delivery, his “realness”, the music, the outreach ministry and the friendly members, she wanted to be a member here. She said from one week to the next she knew her personality had not changed. But, the people at PVUMC were different and they were wanting to use her. She believes it was divine intervention that brought her here. She felt like she was home.
She shared that with all of the growth here at PVUMC she hopes we will not become complacent about a new member joining. Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” She shared what a memorable experience and what an important step joining is. She wants us to continue being genuinely happy they are joining and she wants us to have places for them to use their gifts and services. When she greets visitors she invites them to sit with her. Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.“
Last year when Ms. Cathleen joined she made a vow that she was going to grow spiritually. She began a “read the Bible in a year” plan. She began a daily devotional, she began having prayer time and she joined a Sunday school class. She loves the adult education opportunities such as our Lenten studies. She knew she was hungry for God’s Word but she quickly realized she was STARVING for God’s Word! Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” By tapping into all of these resources she has grown so much! A year ago Ms. Cathleen thought she had no knowledge to share and never saw herself as a disciple. Now she knows she can reach out to others. She has a heart for deprived children, hunger, and abused women. She is praying for God’s guidance on how PVUMC can use her in these areas. 1 Peter 3:8, “Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”
Ms. Cathleen says she sees PVUMC as a flower garden with all of the flowers blooming at different times, in different seasons. I would say Ms. Cathleen is in her growing season and she is in full bloom! Isaiah 35:2, “...it will burst into bloom, and rejoice with gladness and shouts of joy…” Welcome to your one year anniversary at PVUMC, Ms. Cathleen!