Yesterday I stumbled across a fascinating video profiling a traditional United Methodist congregation in LaSalle, Illinois (hat tip to Drew Collins of St. Thomas Reformed Episcopal Church).
Grace United Methodist Church has experienced rapid growth. The church is on a mission to bring men to Christ, in a denomination that is notably two-thirds female.
You might be picturing a neo-Calvinist pastor staging mixed martial arts matches alongside video game parties. “Church in the Octagon,” anyone?
Wrong. Turns out Grace UMC is preserving its traditions while tactfully removing the homemade felt banners and other overtly-feminine items from the sanctuary. The moves were subtle, modest and gradual. The effect has been more pronounced.
“We’re seeing lives really changed: marriages being saved, families being stronger, men being leaders, fathers being leaders,” reports the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Wilson, pastor of Grace UMC.
The changes have been more than just a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint. Pastor Wilson reassessed the imagery she employed in her sermon messages, and songs with overtly feminine language (such as the syrupy “Womb of Life” from the UMC’s Faith We Sing hymnal supplement) were jettisoned.
Theology is not explicitly mentioned in the video, but there are a few other unspoken items on display: an American flag respectfully positioned near the front of the church, NIV Bibles in the pews, and a congregation that clearly has an interest in producing a future generation of United Methodists. Grace UMC’s web site describes an active youth ministry and Alpha course.
“Things have just turned around,” observes the wife of a man who attends Grace UMC. “We pray together at night as husband and wife and that just brings us closer.”
What an encouraging story of Mainline Protestant renewal! You can view the short video here: