Yesterday Tom and I attended Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Shelby, North Carolina. We had intended to return to King’s Mountain, but as we talked about it during the week, we realized that neither of us had enjoyed the experience at King’s Mountain very much. So I spent one evening researching United Methodist Churches in the area.
There are over 30 United Methodist Churches within a 20 mile radius of our current location. Of these, only five have websites. Five additional churches have Facebook pages, although only two of them have an administrator. None of the Facebook pages included the worship service times. The remaining 22 churches I contacted have phone numbers (I think) but half of them don’t even have answering machines. Of the ten churches that have answering machines, only one had the worship times on the answering machine message. The five churches with websites – King’s Mountain, Aldersgate in Shelby, Buford UMC in Shelby, Central UMC in Shelby, and First UMC in Gastonia – all made it easy to get worship times and find out something about the church.
I am always amazed at how hard churches make it to find out when their worship times are. It is the same as a church hanging a sign on their door saying “visitors NOT welcome here.” And churches wonder why they don’t attract visitors. Facebook is free and many people in a church have their own Facebook page and could at least post a few pictures and the worship times.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church has a beautiful website with the service times clearly posted at the top of the page. They also have a Facebook page and encourage people to “like” them on Facebook. They have an 8:30 Sunday service that is listed as “informal and somewhat contemporary.” We thought this was a funny way to describe the service, but after attending it we found out it was a perfect description.
We arrived at Aldersgate United Methodist Church just a little early and easily found our way into the sanctuary. We were greeted at the door by several smiling people and picked up a bulletin from one of the ushers. The sanctuary is long and narrow and looked like it could accommodate 600 people. There were about 100 people at the service and I overheard the man behind us say that people were either staying home because of the weather (the forecast said there might be some snow) or because of the Carolina Panthers game so I assume there are usually more people at the service. We also found out the youth group was on retreat.
The service started promptly at 8:30 (yay!) with announcements and then a time to “pass the peace.” Many people said hello but they didn’t stay around to talk, and they actually said “the peace of Christ be with you.” After a few minutes the pianist started playing “This is the Day,” which was the sign for everyone to return to their pews and begin the worship service.
Tom noticed, as soon as we entered the sanctuary, that there weren’t any screens. Because of the shape of the sanctuary and the style of the chancel, there wasn’t really any place to put a screen. Even though the architecture was open and “modern” (looked like 1970’s), the chancel was too narrow for a screen that would be big enough to be seen at the back of the sanctuary. We sang from “The Faith We Sing” and were led in our singing by the “Sanctuary Choir.” We could tell which songs were unfamiliar and which ones the congregation knew because they sang enthusiastically when they knew a song.
I liked having the choir. They sang an anthem during the service which was wonderful. The singing during worship was accompanied by a band which had a guitar, a mandolin, a bass, drums, and piano.
The sermon was very good and based on the lectionary reading of John 2:1-11, Jesus turning water into wine. Rev. Sylvia Wilhelm asked us to think about how many people it takes to make a miracle: Mary, Jesus, servants, and steward. Jesus provides the power for the miracle, but ordinary people carry out the miracle. She asked us to consider what miracles Jesus is asking us to carry out for him in the world today. The power belongs to Jesus but he needs us to do our part.
After the service people shook hands with Rev. Wilhelm but left very quickly to go to small groups for fellowship and study. We were tempted to follow the line of people to see if anyone would invite us in, but we needed to get back to Kings Mountain for work.
Tom and I both enjoyed our visit to Aldersgate United Methodist Church very much. I think we can be enthusiastic about returning.