“Dozens of times I get asked, “How big is your church?” My response is: “Under 50.” And each time I’m left standing immediately alone, not given the opportunity to rejoice over the incredible effectiveness of a small church in a rural community, turned inside out for Jesus.” ~ MIKE BRUBAKER, PASTOR
Myrtle Point’s Closing
Twila Veysey’s complete statement given at the 2007 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.
“Bishop Hoshibata and members of the annual conference:
Hard-working settlers started the Myrtle Point United Methodist Church in 1891 in much the same way most early country churches began in the Northwest. I could spend my allotted three minutes telling you about the church’s history, but what I really want to share with you is about the future.
As the demographics of our small community have changed, our members have become elderly. This year average attendance has been about 14. We have had no secretary or custodian, no nursery or choir for many years. We have no Sunday-school teachers. No children under the age of 15. No UMW. No youth group. No missions. In places the plaster is falling off the walls. Half of the lights in the sanctuary haven’t been on since November, but we couldn’t afford an electrician.
Last year a pastor in Alabama was called by God to retire early, pack up his family, and move to the Oregon Coast. I think his retirement lasted about three months. Through connection with the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, the Rev. Ken Autry found himself appointed to Myrtle Point in September. The last thing our struggling church thought it needed was a conservative Southern preacher, and I’m ashamed to say that Rev. Autry and his family received a cool welcome. But God doesn’t make mistakes, and in time we realized what a blessing Rev. Autry was.
We began to have what he called “Futuring Meetings,” and we came to the conclusion that we really had only two choices–either the conference would close the church or we could close it ourselves. We chose the latter.
Together, we worked through our grief and then decided our final worship service in our beautiful sanctuary would be on Easter Sunday–a day of joy and resurrection. Joy for what had been and resurrection for a new ministry. Because now, our plan is to fully embrace the Bishop’s Initiative to Eliminate Hunger.
Since Easter we have been meeting weekly for dinner, fellowship, Bible study, and worship in the basement of the church. We are moving our church membership to Pioneer UMC in Coquille, and a Myrtle Point Hunger Ministry has been formed. Unencumbered by a church building and operating expenses, we are embarking on a new ministry to address poverty in our community. Myrtle Point has high unemployment and a high poverty rate, with many school children enrolled in the free lunch program. We will provide a free hot meal one evening a week, open to all. We envision an outreach center, which could provide referrals or assistance in locating housing, clothing, job training, medical care, and/or transportation.
As the details are worked out, we of the Myrtle Point United Methodist Church have closed its doors. but the church is not a building and the legacy that we leave for our community is one of hope for the future.”
More here: gbgm-umc