Today Tom and I worshiped at Heritage United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg Mississippi. Heritage United Methodist Church was not our first choice. We wanted to worship at the closest United Methodist Church, which would have been McLain UMC, but when I tried to find out what time the worship service was, the church didn’t have a website and the phone number that was listed has been disconnected. My next choice was Parkway Heights UMC, close to the campus of Southern Mississippi University, but the website for Parkway Heights had worship times listed in two places and the worship times were not the same. I called the church but the voicemail didn’t have the worship times on it. I also looked on Facebook, which had different worship times listed than the ones on the webpage. So we decided that if they couldn’t agree on their worship times, we would agree not to attend.
Heritage United Methodist Church was our third choice, but it was a good place to worship. I liked them when I visited their website because the home page had a link for worship times and directions. I didn’t have to search for it. Heritage United Methodist Church appears to be a large congregation with four weekly worship services – one on Saturday and three on Sunday morning. Two of the services on Sunday morning are at the same time. We attended the Traditional service in the sanctuary which was being held at the same time as the Overflow service in the Fellowship Hall. We didn’t hear any noise from the other service during our service, so the building must be very well sound-proofed. I think the two services had two different preachers, but I’m not sure. There were a lot of screens in the Traditional service, and the sermon might have been sent by a link into the Overflow service.
The sanctuary was large and modern with beautiful stained glass windows. There was a large balcony, a pipe organ, and enough pews to seat about 700 people. I think there were about 400 at the Traditional service, but I couldn’t see the people in the balcony. The Overflow service was smaller, but it looked like there might have been 200 in there. The highlight of the service (for me) was the children’s handbell choir. About 20 children, Kindergarten – 3rd Grade, used colored bells to play “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” It was wonderful and made me miss all my church kids. The Adult Choir sang a beautiful anthem and all the other parts of the service flowed well and were part of a common theme.
Rev. Dr. Tommy Artmann is the Senior Pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church. He preached a sermon about “Great Stories of the Bible: Jesus Comes for the Lost – the Story of the Lost Sheep.” He discussed the parable of the lost sheep from Luke 15:1-7. A couple of thoughts that I found particularly interesting: he talked about the lost as the down and out, but he also talked about the lost being those who were up and out – things going so well they thought they didn’t need God in their lives. Also, Rev. Artmann said that the shepherd in the parable was obviously upper-middle-class. He wasn’t wealthy, or he would have hired a shepherd. He wasn’t average income because he would have had fewer sheep. So why leave 99 and look for one? What does it matter if just one is lost? This idea really hit me because I think there are many times I’ve been more concerned with the 99 than the one who is lost.
One odd thing about Heritage United Methodist Church is that it doesn’t have a permanent sign. It is a huge building and a large congregation in an affluent area, but the sign for the church is plastic and set up on two wooden poles outside the church. Rev. Artmann alluded to this anomaly, but he didn’t offer an explanation. The website has lots of information about the church but no history so I couldn’t find the answer there either.
We enjoyed our visit to Heritage. It appears to be a growing congregation that is very concerned about sharing Christ’s love with lost individuals and a lost world. The motto of the church, which Tom and I both found a little curious but also inspiring is “A loving, winning, growing community.”