By Rev. Jeanne Webdell
There is a strong connection between the Clarksville UMC and the Mississippi River town of Clarksville. It goes back to 1830 when the Methodists starting meeting at a home there. There have been major changes in population, industry and farming, and both the church and town have challenges.
Clarksville has been hit hard by flooding, with six major floods in the last 10 years. These floods have been the highest floods ever except for record-breaking floods of 1973 and 1993. Some of the merchants have been forced to leave the historic business district and move elsewhere. But the town people and the church people are determined to hang on. The residents of Clarksville are hoping for help to get a flood wall installed that will save this picturesque small town and business district from dwindling further.
Through the flooding and clean up and emotional toll, the church has become an even more important part of the community. It has served as a gathering place for flood volunteers and residents.
The basement kitchen was the command center. The church members and volunteers provided three meals daily, encouragement and a cool place to sit down. In 2013 the Missouri National Guard recognized the efforts of the church to help the guardsmen who were fighting the flood.
Throughout the flooding, the church stands as a reminder of God’s presence in times of difficulty. According to a member Janie Busch, “The church, with its stained glass and the light in the bell tower, belongs to the whole town. It’s a symbol of the town’s determination to flourish once again.”
As the Chamber of Commerce struggles to find new ways the attract shoppers, the church is ready to help out in any way it can. For years Clarksville UMC has provided food for Eagle Days and for the fall Applefest. These events have been fundraisers for the church but have also provided a quick place to eat for those who are anxious to get back to eagle watching or seeing old friends. In recent years the food has been particularly important because some restaurants have closed.
The church is now raising money to restore and protect its stained glass windows, which were installed not long after the church was built in 1908. In addition to cooking for funds, the church is also selling beautiful note cards of the stained glass windows. People have also supported the restoration project with donations.
People have noticed the connection between the church and the community. One woman, who has seen the fellowship of the kitchen workers, has started attending the church. The church has opened fellowship hall to any who would come on Monday afternoons for free coffee or tea (and sometimes a sweet treat).Again, this provides a gathering place for residents to share news and fellowship. It also strengthens the church-community ties.
Pastor Art Moore, who has been at the church since 2015, is out at community events, strengthening the ties and inviting people to church. Pastor Moore commented, “Although my time in Clarksville is short, I have found that the church folks and the community have been very welcoming to my wife and me. We have learned to appreciate this community and have realized that Clarksville UMC is one of the strong centers that is working to revitalize Clarksville. The layout of the town itself centers around the church with its steeple and beautiful sanctuary and stained glass windows.” For Pastor Moore and his wife Diane, “It has been a joy to see the congregation reach out to the community with the love of Jesus.”