Rev. Jim Harris is a retired United Methodist Pastor, serving part-time at Bridgewater UMC. Jim has been a faithful follower of our Monday Morning Devotions. I asked him to share a devotion with us. Below is his devotion about Central UMC in Staunton. Many thanks, Jim!
The Church of Mismatched Bricks
After a humble beginning in a Staunton blacksmith’s shop in 1797, what is now known as Central United Methodist Church, out-grew that location and purchased land and built their first building. The current church building is the fourth one built on that land and was constructed in 1892. Continuous growth over the next century meant the church had to be enlarged. Additions were built on various sides of the original church and in the 1960’s a three story education wing was added. The bricks used on each new structure didn’t match those used on earlier structures, resulting in a church covered with mismatched brick.
My brother Hugh and I have each served on the staff at Central, and my wife is a member. It is currently served by my dear friend, Rev. Won Un. We love Central church. But, that has not kept us from occasionally laughing at the mosaic of bricks. Then, the other day as I was driving past the church and smiling about the crazy lack of continuity in the bricks, I felt my heart touched by a different impression.
The mismatched bricks on the outside hint at a beautiful truth within the congregation itself. Central has been declining in numbers as members age and die, but it is beginning to see new growth. I love seeing how this old congregation is emerging as a new congregation of mismatched people, people of varied ethnicities, backgrounds and income levels. The church, responding to Un’s humble shepherding, is increasingly becoming a mission-centric church. They are attracting young families who care about helping others. They have a youth group for the first time in several years, and more children than ever.
At one time, Central church was home to some of the wealthiest and most influential citizens. Now they are building a new identity with mismatched people serving others for a common reason: the grace of God. My prayer is that all our churches would learn the strength that comes from embracing others who may not be like us, but who, like us, love the Lord Jesus.
Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.