Yesterday I returned to Wedgewood United Methodist Church for the first time since I retired a year ago. I was the pastor at Wedgewood for 21 years – a lifetime for many of the young people at Wedgewood! Rev. Joe Burkhardt, the current pastor, invited Tom, John, Jackie and I to attend to celebrate Wedgewood’s 100th Anniversary.
Wedgewood was chartered as a church on June 28, 1915 by a group of folks that had built a wooden frame structure for worship and Sunday School on Arlington Street in Akron. The church’s first name was Arlington Street United Brethren. Ten years later the building was too small and the congregation built a new brick church up the street. Here the Arlington Street UB became the Arlington Street Evangelical United Brethren, one of the largest EUB congregations in Ohio in the 1950’s. In 1965 the congregation decided to move to the Ellet area of Akron and
they built the building the worship in today. The name also changed to Wedgewood EUB which changed to Wedgewood United Methodist in 1970 when the two denominations merged (EUB and Methodist).
I was honored to be the pastor of Wedgewood for 21 of the church’s 100 years. At the worship service yesterday, Bishop John Hopkins preached. Rev. Cal King, the pastor who preceded me, read the scripture. Rev. Joe Burkhardt held the whole service together. And I got to give the Children’s Time.
Children have always been my favorite thing in ministry and I have missed the children more than anything else. I miss their smiles, their hugs, and most of all, their infectious joy in Christ. I called all the children forward and they came. But I also invited all those who had been children during the time I was pastor to come forward. There were a lot of teenagers and young adults who also came forward. So many that we were almost out of room at the front of the sanctuary.
I talked to the big and little children about the history of the church but also about how things in churches have to change: names, places, pastors, and even children. Children grow up and become teenagers and young adults. But one thing never changes in a church – how we love and serve Jesus Christ in all we do. We teach Jesus, we learn about Jesus, we grow in Jesus, and we learn to share that faith in Jesus with the world. The teenagers and young adults represented were excellent examples of that growth in faith that will never change as long as the Wedgewood Church exists.
After the service there was a wonderful lunch put together by the Anniversary Team. I didn’t get to each much because I was too busy talking to everybody. But that was typical for me at church dinners. Many people said how much they missed me, and I appreciate the idea. One of the wise women, Marge Schuck, told me that “You can’t hold someone in your heart for 21 years and not miss them when they are gone.” There are many people I miss at Wedgewood and it was good to see them again yesterday.
I would love to show you some pictures of the day. I took my camera and gave it to John and Jackie so they could take pictures for me. But the few they took did not turn out well. So – sorry – no wonderful pictures of the wonderful day. This is the best picture I have of the Children’s Time, taken by Pam Varga (thanks Pam).
It was good to be back at Wedgewood for the day. The church seems to be doing well and Rev. Joe and the people are adjusting to each other. If everyone at Wedgewood continues to love and serve Jesus, there will come a day when this vital church will celebrate its 200th Anniversary. I won’t be here – but maybe a few of my children will.