|Why did you choose this church?
By Annette Bender
Ted & Eva McNulty
First Bulls Gap UMC
Ages: Ted, 35; Eva, 32; John, 11; Joshua, 8
Occupation: Both are employees at Wal-Mart Distribution Center
First visit: Spring 2001
Joined as members: January 2002
Pastor: Bill Hughes
Ted: "After moving to this area, we visited several churches including two Baptist churches and one Presbyterian church. We considered joining a Baptist church, but they wanted a re-baptism and we weren't comfortable with that. (My wife and sons have already been baptized in an Orthodox church.) The message at that church wasn't always positive, either. It was more hellfire and brimstone. The Presbyterian church was OK, but it was real small and there were no kids there.
"Then we decided to visit the Methodist church, which was real close to our house, not even a half mile away. I had never set foot in a United Methodist church before they turned out to be just real good people. They made us feel like we had known them for a long time. We didn't feel like outcasts or strangers or anything. They invited us to all the get-togethers and offered to help us in any way they could. My truck broke down once and church members even helped me with that.
"The kids loved it, and that influenced our decision a lot. Some of their friends go to the church, and they really like their Sunday school classes.
"The pastor, Bill [Hughes], is a good guy easy to talk to, easy to approach. We like him and this church real well, so we're staying with it."
Brenda & Gary Matlock
Ages: Brenda, 56; Gary, 54
Occupation: Brenda, hospital social worker; Gary, construction
First visit: November 2002
Joined as members: January 2003
Pastor: Dennis Newman
Gary: "I was raised in St. John United Methodist Church. Then I married Brenda and 'jumped the fence' to the Baptist church, I guess you could say. We raised our three daughters in a Baptist church until they started flying the coop. Then we got kind of dissatisfied and started visiting other churches for a year or more.
"When a friend of ours passed away, it was Dennis Newman who preached the funeral. It was so much of a different kind of funeral, we were really impressed. Dennis told stories that were funny and personal. My brother was already a member of Christ Church so we decided to visit there.
"We fell in love with it right away. The people were very friendly, and we had friends there that we didn't even realize were members. The associate pastor, Paul Smith, visited us soon after we came to visit and that really made an impression on us.
"It's just a joy to go to church on Sunday morning; that hasn't been in my heart for a long time. We really like the 9:30 a.m. service, which is kind of laid-back for blue-collar types. And Dennis he's a super individual he's even got us going to Wednesday night Bible study."
Brenda: "It was Dennis who made me feel so comfortable in this church. I used to feel bad when I left church on Sunday morning, because I knew I was doing wrong. But Dennis is funny, he keeps your attention, and you still get the message. Now I feel good when I leave church and so I want to do good. That's something we've never had. This church has caused a complete turn-around in our lives."
Occupation: Retired from a printing company
First visit: Spring 2002
Joined as members: November 2002
Pastor: Floyd Ward
Why did you choose this church?
Andy: "My wife and I had been to a number of churches over the years, but had never joined one and had never been a regular attendee. We just sort of went.
"Then my wife and her brother started going to Edgewood, and they asked me to go with them. I really was impressed with the people of the church more than anything. They seemed to just welcome you in regardless of who you are. I guess they don't put people in classes. They seem to be real sincere with the way they conduct themselves. They involved us in the activities of the church and invited us to take leadership positions. When we're sick, they call to check up on us.
"The preacher always had a good message, too. I've been to churches where they just preach and preach, but he always went to the scriptures and I was impressed with his service. He always had an understandable message, and he came to see us soon after we visited the church.
"My wife joined the church first, and then I joined later. I was raised up in Baptist churches in Norton, Va., but I believe this is the first United Methodist church I've ever attended. I've been to larger churches. But I really prefer smaller churches because of the familiarity you have with other people. These are just about the nicest people you could meet."
Why do people visit and join Holston churches? We also asked these newcomers why they came and stayed.
Church Street UMC
Young adult programs A UT graduate student, Carrie, 24, felt she was "missing something" since she moved from Sparta, Tenn. She visited Church Street because it was nearby, then stayed because of the programs offered for her age group and the new Sunday night contemporary service.
Beaver Ridge UMC
Oak Ridge District
Pastor Mark's parents and several other family members are Beaver Ridge members. When the family experienced several deaths and illnesses, Mark, age 38, was impressed by the Rev. Walter Weikel's compassion.
& Hollis Bourne-Frye
Main Street UMC,
Children's programs Jennifer, 31, and daughter Hollis, 8, were first exposed to Main Street when they attended Girl Scout meetings in the church. They cite the children's program as a main attraction.
Jere & Linda Miller
Allen Memorial UMC
Hungry for home Jere, 54, and Linda, 53, both grew up in a Methodist church and were "hungry" for familiar teachings. "We found it at Allen Memorial," Linda says.
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