I had an interesting conversation yesterday.
I was getting some negative feedback about our church through the Methodist grapevine. The grapevine was reporting back that our church, Lockerbie Central United Methodist, wasn’t really “United Methodist.”
Well, the grapevine, as we all know, normally isn’t correct.
During this conversation I was asked , “so, what should I tell people about Lockerbie Central? Because, face it, you really aren’t United Methodist! Or at least, traditionally United Methodist.”
I stuttered for a bit and probably said something stupid. But I thought about it more.
This is my response to that question and I do think its a good question.
You are right. Lockerbie Central isn’t your normal run of the mill United Methodist Church. We don’t have paid staff, including a paid pastor. Paychecks aren’t bad but we had to decide between paychecks and turning the place into condominiums.
Look at all the old Methodist churches that are going to be closed down soon and are irrelevant to their communities? Before you worry about Lockerbie Central, please worry about those places!
Anyways, the laity and supportive clergy at Lockerbie Central took over a building that had severe structural issues and an interior decorating crisis (imagine what a 1950s nursing home must have looked like) and turned it into a safe space that now hosts arts events, social justice gatherings, yoga classes, and church services. We took over a congregation that was losing $7,000 a month and is now on the verge of breaking even. We took a place that nobody had heard of and made it matter. In face, Nuvo Newsweekly, Indianapolis’ alternative paper, voted us this summer the Best House of Worship.
Not too shabby.
In an aging and relatively segregated denomination, we have somewhat of a multi-cultural congregation full of young adults with leadership responsibilities. I am not sure you could find another UMC in Indiana where you would hear the words “full of young adults with leadership responsibilities.” We have even hosted a national conference showing off to other United Methodists from across the country what a small and struggling church can do; given the freedom and support.
Undoubtably, this a unique situation for a United Methodist congregation. But, we do have some history on our side. Many meetings (churches) in The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) don’t have paid pastors. And wasn’t Paul a tent maker? And Jesus a carpenter laborer? And didn’t John Wesley, the founder of the church that we call United Methodist took the faith out of the traditional church and into the fields, factories, prisons, and mines? And didn’t he empower laity and common folk carry out the ministry of the church?
Yeah, we are different. But don’t those UMC ads tell us to rethink church?