Mid-State District Home to Diversity of Churches Living Their Faith
By Lynn Dyke
Life takes each of us on all sorts of journeys, doesn’t it? Journeys with twists and turns, hills and valleys, ups and downs, the good and the not-so-good. Your life is like that, and mine has been like that as well.
Every once in a while, I stop and reflect on how I got to the middle of Missouri. I was born in Maryland, moved to Kansas City (on the Kansas side), moved to south central Kansas for college, then Denver for seminary. My first eight years of ministry were in Kansas. Then my new husband and I moved across the country so I could work in the conference office in Washington (the state) and north Idaho. Then back across the country to Arkansas, so he could teach and I could pastor. And finally, some fourteen years ago, we moved to southwest Missouri (so he could teach some more and I could pastor some more). That journey has led me to seven states and something like 25 homes (but then who is counting!).
Most every day I am journeying somewhere in the Mid-State District. And I love the variety of the district. There are the churches surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks, which brings the draw of recreation and the knowledge of “snowbirds” into ministry.
There are churches in Columbia, each trying some new ways to minister in this city that is one of the fastest growing cities in the state. There are churches that do everything they can to faithfully keep their doors open .. sometimes cutting expenses by worshipping every other week, sometimes having lots of fundraisers, sometimes putting off capital repairs, sometimes being amazed by gifts that arrive seemingly from heaven. There are churches that minister faithfully in our capital city, standing tall as witnesses. There are churches that worship five or six on a good Sunday... and others that worship over 500 on a normal Sunday. There are churches that are growing, even moving from less than full time to having a full time pastor again...and others that are making changes in pastoral leadership due to declining worship attendance. And there are so many churches in other places, doing good, leading people to faith, and sharing the Good News in ways that are changing lives. I love to journey around the district.
If I was going to step out on a limb, and name two particular celebrations on the journey, I’d lift up campus ministry and ways folks are stepping out in risk-taking mission and service.
Campus ministry is alive and well on the campus of Central Methodist University! Tuesday morning chapel is attended by over 100 folks on an average – and the new CMU president is often part of the praise band. And CMU campus ministry will be expanding in the months to come, as the new president continues to place an even greater emphasis on spiritual life on that campus. Campus ministry is alive and well on the campus of Mizzou! SPARK is the name of campus ministry and it happens out of Missouri UMC. There’s a Sunday evening worship service, mentoring, mission trips, small groups, and so much more. It’s been a joy to watch these two campus ministries sow seeds in the lives of college students.
And all over the district there are folks taking risky moves to reach out in mission and service. Wilkes Blvd UMC just opened their third floor as a resource center/day center for the homeless in the city of Columbia who are seeking ways to turn their lives around. First UMC in Jefferson City started a Community Center about two years ago. PET distributions continue all around the world, and the district is blessed by having that ministry in its midst. Faithbridge UMC annually invites other churches to join them in Feed the Children. Belle UMC, a small rural church of under 30 folks a Sunday, is organized to pack 77 buddy packs a week. Sturgeon, another rural church of under 15 a Sunday, houses a community food pantry and thrift shop, offering amazing hope to surrounding communities. And those are just for starters.
Yes, the journey is good. And in the midst, this Kansas girl has learned to cheer loud for the Mizzou Tigers!