In November, members of three local United Methodist churches voted to close their doors.
It was both an end and a beginning for Durr’s Chapel and Rice Chapel, historically black churches, and Christ United, a predominantly white congregation.
Attendance at each church had been slipping for some time when the Rev. Regenia Garrett became their pastor in June 2012.
On Sunday, the sanctuary of the former Christ UMC was filled as church members honored their past and celebrated their future as the newly-formed River of Living Water United Methodist Ministries.
Among the speakers during the special service was Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the UMC North Alabama Conference.
Wallace-Padgett shared a message based on the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13.
“Though there are some churches across the world and even in north Alabama that appear to be dying, there are also many churches that are thriving and growing. When I see a church like this one that is being revitalized and experiencing new life, I am inspired, excited and hopeful for the future,” Wallace-Padgett said.
River of Living Water will operate as one church at three campuses.
The former Christ UMC on Jones Dairy Road will serve as the main location. The church’s Celebrate Recovery program will continue to be based there.
The other two church buildings will be used for outreach ministries in the Frisco community of Jasper and in Oakman.
Garrett said the Frisco campus will likely host monthly grocery giveaways, weekly community suppers, Bible studies and adult education classes.
The Oakman campus will be the site of youth ministries, including tutoring and a monthly program called Teen Talk. Bible studies, Sunday evening worship services and monthly dinners will also be held at the former Rice Chapel UMC.
Garrett said she expects that the sight of black Christians and white Christians working together will be a powerful witness in each community.
“When they see us working, laughing, talking and enjoying ourselves in the Lord, it witnesses to them. We become the open Bible to what God wants,” she said.
Members of River of Living Water introduced themselves and their mission to Walker County last month with an “All That Jazz Christmas Ball,” which was attended by more than 200 people.
Source: Daily Mountain Eagle | Jennifer Cohron