I appreciate The Call for covering churches to watch across the Holston Conference, and I appreciated our district superintendent, Richard Patterson, for selecting Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Dandridge as being one of the churches in the Morristown District to watch.

I did not, however, enjoy the article at all. I do not think that it reflected the "spirit" of Shady Grove. We may be a "melting pot" as our pastor was quoted, but as a longtime member of this church, I would like to go on record to say that we do not view our members or visitors in the manner that the writer of the article apparently does. Shady Grove does not classify people in this way. We are all children of an awesome God, and the Holy Spirit is alive and well at Shady Grove.

We do not look on outward appearances as others obviously do, and that is what makes this a church to watch. We strive to see people as God sees them. We may ask for their addresses to send them our newsletter each month or visit them if they need something, but we are not concerned with whether they live in a condominium or a farmhouse. We all take pride in our homes and would never refer to anyone's home as "older" or "rundown." We also do not label any of our communities as "underprivileged." Breakfast is made available for any child or even adult if they want to eat. Our church delivers meals on Thursdays to those who are shut in or who may just want a weekly visit, and anyone can come to the church to eat. Donations are taken, but there is no fee. We know that at any given time someone can be in a financial bind. We know that service is an important part of tithing and that God has supplied different gifts for different people. We do not single anyone out.

I hope and pray that "assimilate into classrooms with the other children" is not a statement that was spoken by anyone at Shady Grove. This is a very caring and loving church. No matter how many billboards, mass mailings, newspapers ads, or campaigns a church has, it will not succeed unless the very heart of the church is God Almighty, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The pastor and the people at Shady Grove love the Lord and strive to obey him by loving each other. We do reach out to the community. We have numerous members who have donated money, service, etc., and don't always want it known. From nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, shepherds, those we offer financial advice to (the list goes on and on and on), many volunteer their services.

Our focus is not on "growth" as was quoted in The Call. Our focus is on the love of Christ and what he would have us do in ministry at Shady Grove. As quoted, we are "a solid core of people with a deep, abiding faith who are willing to step out on that faith," and we do have a pastor who does a wonderful, heartfelt job of bringing God's word and message. But the success of Shady Grove comes only because the spirit is alive and dwells with us, causing us to take seriously the great commission and the Lord's command to love one another. The pictures in the article were very nice, but I wish the written text had displayed the real beauty of our church.

Sherri Franklin
Shady Grove UMC
Morristown District


To send a letter to the editor of The Call, write: C-Mail, The Call, P.O. Box 32939, Knoxville, TN 37930-2939, fax (865) 690-3162, or thecall@holston.org. Printed letters are limited to 150 words.


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