This morning Tom and I attended the Peachblow United Methodist Church for worship. Peachblow UMC is the closest United Methodist church to the campground where we are staying, and the name is so intriguing, we decided to check it out.
Peachblow United Methodist Church is located at 3247 Peachblow Road, Lewis Center Ohio. But which was named first – the church or the road? I did a little research to find the answer. Peachblow United Methodist Church was built and dedicated in 1858, which makes the building 157 years old. Originally the building was a United Brethren church called Berlin Chapel. A story from the church’s history says that, although the outside of the church was white, the interior of the church was painted a delicate peach color. Several of the parishioners did not like the color and started calling it by the derogatory name of “peachblow.” The name caught on and soon everyone was calling it the Peachblow Church. Eventually the road it was on was also called Peachblow. Today the name, and building, survive.
Another reason we decided to attend Peachblow United Methodist Church today was because of its excellent web page. The worship time was clearly listed and the church obviously keeps the web site up to date because it had today’s bulletin on the web site. It also does podcasts of the service so people who are away can participate by watching. This isn’t a big church – about 25 in attendance today – but it cares about its image and being welcoming to newcomers. We had considered attending the Lewis Center United Methodist Church today, which is much larger, but couldn’t find any information on their service times. Their web site was down. So Lewis Center’s loss was Peachblow’s (and our) gain.
Sometimes churches with a long tradition can get stuck in the past. Peachblow UMC didn’t give any indication that this was a problem. Although their building is listed with the Ohio Historical Society, Peachblow UMC is a vital congregation that was very welcoming to us from the moment we pulled into the parking lot. Their part-time pastor, Rev. Tom Keene, welcomed us as the door. There wasn’t any other place for him to stand because the church was built before the days of large gathering spaces outside the sanctuary. After the service several members of the congregation welcomed us and invited us to stop in again.
The service was a traditional service with organ music and familiar hymns. There were two offerings and both were well explained: one was a loose change offering for missions and one was for the operating expenses of the church. The congregation participated in the scripture readings and in other parts of the service. We also had communion at the end of the service.
Rev. Keene based his sermon on John 8:31-37 and Colossians 1:1-14. In the passage from John, Jesus is arguing with a group of Jews. He thinks they have been in bondage and they insist they have never been in bondage. People don’t like to admit they are in bondage, even when they clearly are: denial is one of our most persistent sins. Rev. Keene pointed out ways that people today are in bondage: bondage to fear, to sin, to guilt, to loneliness, to our pasts. He suggested that we grow accustomed to our past failures and stop trying to get out of slavery. Of course, Jesus came to give us life and freedom from these sins. Are we going to live free or live in slavery? When we live in the freedom Christ gives us we are free to forgive, free to worship, free to love, and free to live.
Tom and I enjoyed our worship at Peachblow United Methodist Church very much. Even though the congregation is older, they are active in missions and care very much about being involved in the world around them. Rev. Keene is obviously a good leader for them. He told us that he planned to serve at Peachblow for a month, just long enough for the District Superintendent to find someone else to come. But when he and his wife came to the church they fell in love with it and he has now been there more than six years. We can understand how that might happen.