In late July, 36 children filled the church in Creighton to learn Bible stories and strengthen their faith. It was the program’s second year, and in both years, they had reached the maximum number of participants. Not bad for a town with a population of just over 300. More impressive still is that Creighton UMC closed two years ago.
The former United Methodist Church in Creighton is now known as the Sherwood Community Center, named after the local school district, primarily comprised of the towns of Garden City, Creighton Urich and Blairstown. When the church closed in Creighton, the pastor of nearby Garden City UMC encouraged the congregation to step up and accept care of the church building as a community center and was joined in this effort by Lucas UMC. The two churches went into it in partnership, initially sharing costs 50/50. Since the first year, costs have been covered by community and personal donations.
Rev. Jenny Wilson was pastor at Lucas UMC for two years and was appointed to Garden City this year. The Garden City appointment is at half-time. Wilson also works as an EMT, and her husband is a paramedic. It was through that job that she came to her calling to ministry. When trying to support some of her coworkers after several very devastating calls, one told her she would be a good pastor one day. As Garden City pastor, Wilson also serves as coordinator of the community center.
Having the mobile camp at Creighton wasn’t a big stretch for Lucas. Lucas and Creighton had been on the same charge and had alternated their Vacation Bible School between the churches.
“It’s cool to see kids in the building again,” Wilson said.
It works well for a mobile camp location because a nice, well-maintained city park adjoins the church’s backyard, giving them ample room to spread out. During the mobile camp, the Bible study room at the church became the bedroom for camp counselors.
The week of camp was run by two staff from Heartland Camps, one of the mobile camp providers contracted by the Missouri Conference Next Generation Ministries team. Recruiting for the camp was kind of challenging, but not really.
“It seemed like it took forever for us to get to the minimum number (18) to have camp, then within a week, we were right at the maximum number (36),” Wilson said.
“The first year we did the camp, everyone was excited to see something happening here,” Wilson said.
“It’s fun to see kids come out of their shells and make new friends or reconnect with school friends that they haven’t seen all summer,” Wilson said.
Having two small, neighboring churches take on the responsibility for another building in a different town was possible because the Creighton congregation had done an exemplary job of keeping the building in good repair, not just with necessary maintenance but also with updated facilities and fresh, bright colors.
Creighton UMC hosted a food pantry and clothes closet once a month, and Sherwood Community Center still does, with support from Garden City UMC and Lucas UMC, on the third Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The clothes closet has no charge and no limit.
“It’s like a big, free thrift store,” Wilson said.
They give out five to 12 boxes of food each time. The Cass County Book Mobile also stops at the community center, and a trombone choir uses the church for practice. The Girl Scouts meet in the community center.
“It’s nice and central in our area and named for the school district so that surrounding towns can feel like they are a part of it,” Wilson said.
The community center has also been used for birthday parties and baby showers. Last Lent, Lucas and Garden City had a joint Ash Wednesday service at the Sherwood Community Center.