This past Sunday evening several churches in our district gathered together at St. Mark’s UMC for worship and words simply cannot describe what happened!
Our District Superintendent has organized every church in our District into mission fields. The purpose of these groupings is to help our churches develop and live into a real sense of community. One of the focuses for these mission fields is for us to determine what the missional needs are for this community and then figure out how we can meet some of those needs. We have been named Mission Field Peter and the churches in our group are: Zion UMC, Wesley Chapel – Cotton Plant UMC, St. Mark’s UMC, St. Paul’s UMC, First Ocala UMC, Little Chapel UMC, Belleview UMC, and Druid Hills UMC. The pastors for these churches have been meeting and looking at how we can partner together and make an impact for Christ in this part of Ocala.
These discussions and the subsequent visioning lead us to this past Sunday evening. We invited every member of our congregations to come together for a meal and time of worship. Each church chipped in and worked together to make sure all the facets of our time were covered. But this was much, much more than just a gathering. Let me explain.
We began at 5 P.M. with a barbeque meal. Around 4 P.M. it started raining and shortly into our time together the power went out, including the power in the kitchen (and the A/C!). But that did not stop us. We opened up doors, placed lit candles on the tables and we broke bread together. People were laughing; they were traveling around the tables and finding their friends from different churches and in some cases long lost acquaintances. The fellowship was deep and joyful, genuine and just awesome to witness. Eventually the power did come back on, but you barely noticed as there was already so much light in the room from the fellowship that was happening.
Then came time for worship. We moved from the Fellowship Hall into the Sanctuary where we sang, where we prayed, where we celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Communion and where we listened. Each pastor took a turn leading worship and bringing greetings from their particular congregation. With St. Mark’s serving as our host, their pastor, Rev. Susan Gray, delivered a testimony. St. Mark’s will be transitioning part of their campus into a homeless shelter appropriately named, Open Arms Village. Pastor Susan shared with us how this vision came to be, the progress they had made, and their hope for the future.
This whole evening was so moving. It was the fellowship, it was the worship service, it was each church reaching out and welcoming one another. Pastor Susan reflected on the service later that evening and said, “We may have eaten in the dark, but we worshiped in the light.” Amen, Pastor Susan….Amen!
Have a great week and I will see you soon!