Today Tom and I worshiped at the Druid Hills United Methodist Church. The name is unusual for a United Methodist Church – after all, what do Druids have to do with United Methodists? But I will explain that in a future post about Tuscaloosa. Despite its name, Druid Hills UMC is a normal United Methodist Church. It was established in 1960 and the sanctuary is a typical 1960’s sanctuary – a high soaring nave with brown wood rafters and an open chancel. The altar was beautifully decorated for fall. We were surprised to see that communion elements were out. Last week was World Communion Sunday so we were sure we would miss communion this week. But the pastor of Druid Hills, Rev. Tori Hastings, was at a conference last week and so she delayed World Communion Sunday by a week.
Rev. Hastings has been at Druid Hills UMC for four months. She is a recent graduate of Duke Divinity School and this is her first appointment. She has two churches, with the Druid Hills Church being the first service at 9:30. Tom and I had a chance to talk with Rev. Hastings before the service for a few minutes and learned a little bit about her. She is married to a clergyman who also has a two-point charge and she is from Alabama, having graduated from Auburn (a hurdle she has to overcome being appointed in Tuscaloosa with the University of Alabama). Rev. Hastings is excited about serving Jesus through ministering to her churches in Tuscaloosa. The churches are still adjusting to her and she is still getting to know them.
The service was the standard communion service found in the United Methodist Hymnal. Druid Hills United Methodist Church does not have an organ or a choir. The average attendance at the church is 30, so there is “plenty of room for newcomers.” We were greeted warmly by everyone we met, which was most of the people in worship, and were given nametags where we could write our names. Everyone had a nametag, which made the congregation feel more welcoming.
The sermon was based on Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Rev. Hastings said that we live in an anxious world and we are anxious people. We try to change things to ease our anxiety but change is not a DIY project. We can only change a little at a time and we have to rely on God to help us. She suggested three ways that we can learn to rely on God and find his peace. 1) Pray in everything and give thanks for what God has given you. 2) See the nearness of God at times when you are most anxious. 3) Allow others to be encouraging to you – to give you courage through their prayers and their presence.
Communion was by intinction, and we were all invited to take home a mini loaf of bread to remind us that we are all part of the body of Christ. The bread was delicious.
One of the best things about this small church was its racial diversity. Although there were only 20 people there, more than one-fourth of them were non-white. This was the most diverse congregation we have worshiped with. I think this says something wonderful about the heart of this small church in the deep south. They are truly trying to be the one body of Christ.