SOUTH SEAVILLE – Not everyone would see a fire that burns a building to the ground as an opportunity. South Seaville United Methodist Church congregation picked itself up out of the ashes and used the tragedy as a chance to envision how they could return stronger to serve their community. On Sept. 7, they will celebrate the one-year anniversary, which includes a number of success stories that indicate how far they’ve come.
“We’ve come a long way in a year,” said lay leader Mark Gibson.
Their goal was to assess how they could serve both their congregation and their community, and build a facility that would help them fulfill their vision. Gibson, who has been a member of the congregation for about 12 years, pointed to a number of activities considered to be successes during the past year:
- The opening of a nursery school/day care center and thrift shop.
- The opening of a social hall with a state-of-the-art kitchen and a new youth room aimed at young adult members who are too old for Sunday school.
- Active men’s and women’s groups are sponsoring community events.
“We have a thriving Christian nursery school/day care center to help reach members of our community,” Gibson noted. “It’s part of our ministry into the community to bring people together and at the same time, we’re providing a nurturing Christian environment for families. The feedback has been positive and it’s helping us meet the expenses of running the church.”
After fire destroyed the church in 2011, Gibson said there was a rebuilding committee of which he was chairman. “We decided to envision what we could be, taking the calamity of the fire and turning it into an opportunity to serve the community. One of our ideas was to include the day care center so we needed to make sure the church was large enough to accommodate this. During the week the space serves as our nursery school/day care center, and on Sundays, it’s where our Sunday school is.”
The church has a “small” mortgage as a result of the rebuilding, and the new thrift store that opened earlier this year has been such a success that it has helped pay off one-fourth, $25,000, of the debt already.
“Our thrift store has been a major success story,” Gibson said. “We didn’t realize how big the need was in the community to provide low-cost clothing and items. We are able to help the people who really need it the most with the thrift store. People can donate items, the community has the ability to purchase these items and we are repaying our note.”
A social hall was included in the new building and a state-of-the-art kitchen was donated. “We have an active men’s group which puts on a Sunday brunch for about 70 people,” the lay leader said. “It was really a practice run for a ham- and-oyster dinner we plan to have.”
The ham-and-oyster dinner was a tradition in the early years of the church, he explained. “We plan to use the traditional recipes, and get the oysters from Delaware Bay. It will provide a nice social event for the community in the fall.”
The women’s group is also active, he added, with events planned this fall. “They are planning a retreat in the church Sept. 18-19 and an apple festival Oct. 24.”
A young adult group led by Eric and Heather Gass helps young adults stay involved in the church with activities such as car washes, trips and regular meetings. “We have a room dedicated for them as well.”
As lay leader, Gibson’s role is to “reach out to the community to develop the types of programs to bring people to the Lord, and assist with their spiritual development.” He said he plans to start a New Testament Bible study group this fall.
“On Sundays, we already have a Bible study meeting that focuses on that day’s sermon,” he noted. On Thursday evenings, a “country jam” brings musicians together to play Christian and secular music. “It’s a chance to be creative, and we provide food. Any musician can come.”
Gibson believes the 120-member congregation is realizing its vision. “When we dedicated our new building we said our work was just beginning. It certainly has begun, and our members have fully embraced that vision with all these successful efforts. I know we continue to look forward to serving the needs of our community going forward.”
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