News from the Holston Conference's 12 Districts

Lebanon Memorial is so excited about its recent reconstruction, they decided to use it to attract newcomers by holding Open House Month throughout April. They sent out 4,300 invitational letters to boxholders in the community and got one of their members with film experience to make five original TV commercials. The commercials ran on four cable stations. A local company also donated two months of free billboard space. Members wore nametags and gave out loaves of bread to guests. It seems to have worked. By month's end, Lebanon averaged 270 in worship attendance, up from 190 previously, according to Rev. Michael Carter.

Big Stone Gap:
Retiring after 12 years of service, district secretary Mary Dougherty was recently honored with a reception at her home church, Midway Memorial UMC. An estimated 100 well-wishers came to share cake and present Dougherty with a scrapbook, letters, and monetary gift from the district. Accepting Dougherty's former position in the district office is Beverly Crabtree, a member at Trinity UMC.

Youth at Pikeville UMC were unable to participate in the recent 480-mile ride for The Legacy of Commitment campaign, but they still wanted to help raise funds for pastors' pensions. So on March 22, the young people set up a stationary bike in the fellowship hall and took pledges from members. Taking turns on the bike during an all-night lock-in, youth managed to raise $480. They gave the money to the campaign in honor of their pastor, Rev. Barry Sarver.

Wesley Memorial UMC officially opens its new $1.8 million family ministry center on May 11 with Bishop Ray Chamberlain attending. According to the Rev. Robert Haskins, groundbreaking for the building occurred one year ago in April 2001. The center includes classrooms, a gym/stage, offices, and a new kitchen with $50,000 in commercial equipment.

Johnson City:
Edgefield UMC recently hosted 107 students and 17 adults representing Grayson County High School choir in its new family life center. The Virginia group was in the area to perform in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

When Centenary and Wheeler UMC merged in 1990, Centenary was destroyed, but its church bell was saved. On April 28, Wheeler held a dedication ceremony for the 150-year-old bell and its new bell tower. "With a merger, not everybody makes that transition. There's still a lot of people who honor Centenary Church and who are still in the community," the Rev. Dennis Loy recently told the Kingsport Times- News. "We wanted to find a way to identify them and help them participate."

Laity, clergy, and students are invited to Church Street UMC to hear Bishop Kenneth L. Carder address, "Who is Jesus? The Gospel of Mark's Answer." The A. Orin Bishop Lecture Series begins Friday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m., concluding Sunday, May 12. A Holston native, Bishop Carder currently serves in Mississippi. For more info, call (865) 524-3048 or visit

In 1985, Buckner Memorial's Adult Sunday School class began reading and discussing each of the chapters of the Bible, from start to end. The project went on so long, United Methodist Publishing House stopped printing the class' original study materials. One class member, the late Mary McKenzie, commented several times, "I will die before you finish reading all of the Bible!" (She did, in 1993.) Finally, on April 7, 2002, after 17 years of determination, the class achieved its goal. They celebrated with a Wednesday night potluck.

After attending worship at both churches on the Del Rio Circuit, Superintendent Richard Patterson and his wife, Martha, recently toured Rose Hill. This rebuilt log cabin is one of the oldest structures in Tennessee. Owner Rosemary Potter, widow of a Holston minister, will make the cabin available as a day retreat center to small groups of clergy, Patterson said. The target date is this fall.

Oak Ridge:
After considering several time slots for starting a new worship service, Concord UMC recently settled on Sunday night as the best choice. Four weeks after its April 7 launch, "Sunday Night Live" averaged more than 100 in attendance. "We're seeing many new faces and some people who haven't been as active," said Rev. Larry Trotter, who leads the new service. Sunday Night Live is similar to Concord's popular contemporary service, Sunday Morning Light, "except that instead of coffee of doughnuts, we're serving coke and popcorn."

"Tazewell District is alive!" Superintendent Gene Lovell recently reported in the district newsletter. "We rejoice over 40 professions of faith and 75 new members. We ended the first quarter with a net gain of 19." Also noting that average worship and Sunday school attendance was slightly down, Lovell suggested that Tazewell churches call or visit people to encourage them to return.

Door of Heaven UMC, Holston's first chartered Hispanic church, celebrated groundbreaking on its new location on April 22. About 60 people attended, including Superintendent J.N. Howard, members of the new congregation and the parent church, West Galax UMC. First-shovel honors were awarded to Door of Heaven pastor Rev. Arturo Reyna and his wife, Maria.

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