I encourage all of you to read this article from 22 Feb 2023 Kiowa County Independent: Eads & Haswell United Methodist Churches Disaffiliate from the Mountain Sky Conference (kiowacountyindependent.com/news/3382).
I read this article with a heavy heart because I grew up in Eads United Methodist Church. It was a wonderful church. I remember the Christmas Cantata filled to the brim with everyone from surrounding communities participating and attending regardless of their church affiliation. In addition, EUMC’s large size allowed large funerals to be conducted there. My family participated intimately in our church. When my dad became disabled, he and others helped pay to install an elevator. My mother and father were always holding some office or on some committee and after my dad died, it was hard for mom to move away. My mother’s last gift to the church before she moved to Broomfield was to install a new roof and buy new windows. Another member installed a new kitchen. The building is beautiful and in wonderful shape and is a historical site.
Sadly, the Eads United Methodist Church, part of the Mountain Sky Conference, has lost many members. Children’s laughter and screams no longer interrupt church services; there hasn’t been a pastor for several years, and we watch prerecorded church services on a screen with church members running the services. I can blame this on many things: the pandemic, the challenging and competitive nature of being in a small conservative town with a dwindling number of individuals and resources, and the political divide we find ourselves in. Unfortunately, this environment is typical of small communities today, where the loss of inhabitants from an agricultural population in rural areas to larger metropolitan communities has separated our nation. It is heartbreaking to see.
Not only small rural churches but also rural hospitals are closing before our eyes. From what I have read, many rural hospitals have diminished to the point that having medical and psychological emergencies in rural areas could be dangerous.
This environment has helped cause the political divide we now find ourselves in today, especially in our faith community. The United Methodist Church must rethink how we minister to our rural localities. Are we only going to reach out to the metropolitan populations because it is easier and we will generate more revenue, or will we include less populated areas still in our Rocky Mountain Sky Conference? I know our church is facing other difficulties and maybe, sadly, this issue cannot be addressed. I know the way ahead to address this issue will be extremely difficult, but I hope we start looking at all our communities of faith as closely as we look at our world. I for one believe that in this country it is imperative that we try to unite and not divide. I see some rural hospitals finding ways to cope and grow. Maybe the approach that these hospitals are taking is something that we could look at.
In summary, I want to emphasize that our metropolitan churches need to reach out to our rural churches within our denomination, to listen and understand the issues they are facing, and to help be part of the solution to decrease the divide we see in our country. Even reaching outside the walls of our own denomination to other denominations to bring us together. All of us need to help this happen, in rural AND metropolitan areas. We need to understand the rural communities, just like the rural communities need to understand us. This division is tearing our country apart and the faith communities, despite our differences, need to help bridge this gap. We need to become a community of churches allowing for each other’s differences and caring for each other with love as Jesus has commanded us. I pray that our church will continue to be present in all of our Mountain Sky Communities. We used to have circuit riders that went everywhere. Would something like this be possible today? Is this a dream? I hope not.
“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” John Dryden