Morgan's Chapel UMC's silent witness

11/5/2012

By Kara Witherow, Editor 

Morgan’s Chapel United Methodist Church’s fellowship hall proclaims a loud but silent witness to everyone who walks through its doors.

That wasn’t the case a few weeks ago, though.

Just a few weeks ago it was a typical fellowship hall, with empty walls, nondescript décor and trim in need of repainting.

But church leaders and members realized that they had a huge opportunity to tell their story – and the wonderful news of God’s love – to their daily and weekly guests and to the hundreds of visitors who will pack the fellowship hall on Tuesday, November 6.

As one of only six polling places in McIntosh County and one of two in the northern end of the county, Morgan’s Chapel UMC will be a busy place on Election Day, says pastor Rev. Melissa Traver.

“There are only two polling places on our end of the county,” she said. “And we are the largest turnout center of the two.”

As a polling location, church leaders and members have to adhere to a strict set of rules and guidelines. They can’t offer the hospitality they’d like to give or do what comes naturally to the friendly church: talk to the voters, offer the poll workers a snack or water, or even open doors as people walk into the fellowship hall.

“The highest number of people in the county come through our building on this day, and we want to reach out to them,” Rev. Traver said. “They all come through our doors but we can’t talk to them, we can’t play music, we can’t give them water, so how can we share who we are with them and how can we use our space to do that? That was our goal with this.”

And like many churches, Morgan’s Chapel UMC’s fellowship hall gets lots of traffic on days other than Election Day.

“Lots of churches have lots of people in their buildings when church members and staff aren’t there, from workers to community groups to delivery people and others,” Rev. Traver said. “We really thought about how we share the message of good news and invitation when we can’t say anything, when we can’t do anything. We really thought about what the church building says about us and about who we are. If you have good news to share, you share that in every way you can, and that includes to the people who come through your building when you’re not there. How do they know about the witness for Christ in this place, and a little bit about who you are? How can you share who you are and what you’re about and the love of Christ just by your building?”

So the church decided to give the fellowship hall a much-needed facelift.

Part of the facelift included designing, printing and hanging a large banner with the church’s new logo: “Believe in Jesus, grow in faith, live for God.” Over the next few years, Rev. Traver will preach several sermons and teach classes on those topics.

Three bulletin boards have been added to the fellowship hall, each one informing members and guests of different elements and aspects of church life. One lists the schedule for worship services and Sunday school classes, another highlights the church’s current and upcoming activities and events, and a third showcases photos to celebrate what the church family has recently done.

They also took several close-up photographs of worship scenes – arms lifted in praise, fingers strumming a guitar, hands receiving the Lord’s Supper – and printed and hung them on the walls.

“Worship is central to our life together, and we’ve brought it into our fellowship hall so that people can understand a little bit more about what we do together in worship,” Rev. Traver said.

The whole purpose of the “sprucing up” is for the space to be inviting, welcoming and to better meet the needs of the community.

“The fellowship hall is widely used for a lot of community things, and we felt like it was important to put a face to the congregation and let them know what we’re all about,” said Morgan’s Chapel UMC member Gail Guffey.

Rev. Traver echoes her sentiments.

“Our goal is that people who come through our doors will understand that they’re invited and this is a comfortable, welcoming, clean, nice and well-cared for place to be, and that the congregation that worships here thinks that’s important and thinks they’re important,” she said.  “We want to be in service to the community, to be seen as a partner and a neighbor to this area. We want to be a place of welcome.”