Below is a brief recap of some of the major ministry opportunities during September.
-September 1-3 – About five years ago a few of us serving the largest attended United Methodist Churches in America met to see how we might encourage, resource, and help each other enhance our ministry. From this initial meeting we decided to invite the pastors of the 25 largest churches, based on worship attendance. This year the pastors from the top 100 attended churches were invited. We met three days in Park City, Utah. We had 90 of the 100 pastors present. We communicated that any bishops would be welcome and 33 of the active bishops attended. The purpose was to look at ways in which we might help each other carry out the basic commission of making disciples, starting new congregations, helping make fertile the soil for young people to answer the call to ministry, to do more effective ministry to the poor, and strive to eliminate crippling diseases around the world. Many of the pastors came away saying, “I have more hope for the United Methodist Church than I have ever had.” It was a great opportunity to speak candidly with the bishops, to offer the help of the large United Methodist Churches to carry out their tasks, and to help inform them about concerns that pastors of larger churches have. I am glad to be invited to continue participating in this opportunity for ministry.
-September 12-14 – Was invited to preach at a three day celebration recognizing the coming of Methodism to Jefferson County in the Birmingham, Alabama area. I was at the Gardendale United Methodist Church with Rev. Rudy Guess and his staff and laypeople. Methodism started there in a brush arbor meeting. To celebrate this they put up a huge tent and we had outdoor worship services Sunday through Tuesday nights to both celebrate the past and to look to the future of the United Methodist Church in that area. The people were extremely responsive and excited about the future.
-September 15 – Troy University has a golf event to raise money. For the past few years the proceeds from this has gone to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Troy has a great FCA Chapter. President Jack Hawkins and Coach Larry Blakeney are totally behind this ministry. The full time chaplain is Lonnie Cochran. For the third year I have had the opportunity to give the opening remarks for the event (I did not give any golf lessons).
-September 16 – This was the first seminar meeting of the 30 pastors from Alabama-West Florida and 30 pastors from North Alabama. We met in Prattville. The focus of our first session together was stewardship. I will be meeting with these pastors periodically through this year and working with the fine staff of Stewardship Resources from the Birmingham area to give leadership to these pastors to prepare them for serving larger churches in the future.
-September 19 – Preached at the Homecoming service at Wetumpka First United Methodist Church. My dad served that church for five years. I went through elementary school and my brother George started school in Wetumpka. It was great hearing many people give witness to the ministry of my dad and mom. I also heard some things I didn’t want to remember that George and I did while we were the preacher’s kids there!
-September 19 – Preached at Frazer for the evening worship service. The evening worship service was begun two months ago and has been very well attended.
-September 22 – Taught a class on Governance and Organization of the United Methodist Church. It was good for me to go back and sharpen my understanding of some of these issues, and then share them with laypeople.
-September 25-27 – Preached at the Hefner Preaching Series in Lincolnton, North Carolina. Rev. Michael Gehring is the senior minister. The Hefner family set up a fund some 20 years ago to underwrite this preaching mission. It was good to meet people in North Carolina who were so energetic and eager to look for ways in which the church can be more effective in this new century. I finished on Monday noon at Lincolnton and drove down to St. George, South Carolina for a preaching engagement Monday night.
-September 27-October 3 – Preached at the Indian Field Camp Meeting in St. George, South Carolina. It is difficult to describe to you this event. Francis Asbury preached at Indian Field 1802 and that was the beginning of this Camp Meeting. It is now 210 years old. It is a huge campground. The worship services began on Monday night and concluded the following Sunday morning. The campground has 99 large cabins, called tents. Families come back for the Camp Meeting experience. I took some pictures of some of the cabins. Most of them will sleep about 25 people. For the evening activities people drive in from Columbia and Charleston and the surrounding area. Each tent has a huge table that seats about 16 people. They usually have two or three groups who are served. The tents I ate in would serve an average of 55 meals a day. Every meal would have several meats and many fresh vegetables. I asked several of the tents how many cakes they brought to Camp Meeting. The normal number was about 20 homemade cakes and 15 homemade pies – that is for each tent! The center of the campground is the tabernacle. The 99 tents are closely connected to each other – they circle the tabernacle. It is over 200 yards across the encircled area. The schools let out for a couple of days. They have a great children and youth program. It is a part of history that most of us in Alabama never experience because we did not have the history of the camp meetings. It is an awesome experience to preach each day knowing that that was also where Francis Asbury had preached. One of the unique parts about the tabernacle is that parts of it are well over 100 years old. Before the use of sound systems they built a huge sounding board right above the pulpit. It must be 10 feet wide and 16 feet long and slanted upward. The pulpit stands under that and it projects the voice out to the people in the tabernacle. I invite you to go to the internet and learn more about the Indian Field Camp Meeting. My brother George preached there last year. They said that the preaching was better last year but I could eat more than he could!
I have been working on some resources which I hope will help pastors and people. I will be sharing them in the months to come. I have finished a new book, Transforming Living in Tough Times –Devotions. It is now available from Cokesbury. It can be ordered online or from a Cokesbury store. We have copies here at the office and would be glad to send you one. The cost is $8.00 for the book and $2.26 for postage and handling.
Please continue praying for our Board of Directors, for me, and this ministry. My greatest desire is to be faithful to do His will and to be as productive as possible every week of my life. I also want to thank all of you who continue to support this ministry financially. This enables this ministry to expand. All honorariums that I receive at preaching/teaching events go to the John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries to help fund scholarships and expenses for young pastors.
For the Cause of causes,
John Ed Mathison