An Amazing Resurrection Story
There was lots of laughing Easter Sunday at “The Four Churches” service. Life is good, and the Resurrection is real. 200 people, toddlers to elders, gathered at Tillamook UMC to worship together--Congregationists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and United Methodists, singing their hearts out, celebrating the new thing God is creating among them.
It wasn’t so joyful a few years ago. All four congregations (St. John’s United Church of Christ, St Albans Episcopal Church, St Peter’s Lutheran Church, and Tillamook UMC) had suffered along with the community as the recession deepened and jobs disappeared. Each had seen their membership decline, and their energy for ministry dwindle. “I’ll be honest with you,” says the Rev. Jerry Jefferies, who pastors our UM congregation, as well as two others. “This began as a matter of survival.”
Beginning in 2010, under Jefferies’ leadership, The Four Churches began to share their ministry intentionally. They co-operate in youth ministries, with an all-church choir, and in worship together each fifth Sunday. They share a pictorial directory and publish one monthly newsletter, so everyone is included. But their greatest success is in their combined efforts to feed the people of Tillamook, body and spirit. Over 500 meals are served each month, and 6,000 lunches are packed for school children each summer. The Four Churches story was featured on the front page of the Oregonian on Easter Sunday, to the delight of the congregation.
What’s next for The Four Churches? “I don’t know,” said an Easter worshipper, “but it’s going to be good!”
Another article about the churches cooperation was featured in the Oregonian newspaper Easter sunday.
* Peg Lofsvold is the District Superintendent of the Cascadia District of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church