Select story above...MORE SANCTUARY STORIES…. Our church Sanctuary is just that – a place where you can feel at peace. When you enter, there is a warmth that envelopes you. It may be from the special natural light, the beautiful rich wood, or the arms of the Holy Spirit. The warmth is unmistakable. The Sanctuary is alive – alive with music, alive with lessons learned, alive with God's love. Those who enter recognize the Sanctuary as a special place.
We have gathered the stories of many in a publication entitled “Sanctuary Stories”. Through these stories you will come to know the history and the special spirit that lives on in the Sanctuary of First United Methodist Church.
However, ‘those walls continue to talk'! More wonderful stories are coming to light…and will be experienced in the future. For that reason, we will share with you here “More Sanctuary Stories”! Feel free to make your contribution!
The service for Bea Wardlaw was held in our FUMC Sanctuary. The day was cloudy and gloomy, which added to the sadness of those present. During the service, the sun came out and shown brilliantly through our stained glass windows. It was amazing how those rays of sunshine raised the spirits of all! Bea's service ended up being a truly happy celebration of her long and meaningful life.
Many different Special Sundays have been celebrated in our Sanctuary...from blessing our mission teams to confirming new members, to celebrating Stephen Ministers, to praying for our children and teachers as school began, and celebrating our United Methodist Special Giving Sundays.
One of the United Methodist Special Giving Sundays has saluted our Native American churches in a special way. As part of worship, The Lord's Prayer was enacted by Patsy Mooney and Mone' Arnold. It was one of those special moments in the sanctuary that kept everyone's rapt attention and made their souls stir.
Patsy and her Bolin family are of Native American heritage. It was important to Patsy to learn the Indian sign language. She also had a beautiful and authentic leather Indian costume made to use in special celebrations.
So for many years on Native American Sunday, Patsy has signed The Lord's Prayer as Mone' sang those beautiful words. It is a meaningful salute to her heritage….and an interpretation of The Lord's Prayer that we will never forget.
The first time I signed in the church sanctuary was right after Mother died. So, it is very meaningful to me besides being a beautiful prayer.
My CDIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card is with the Cherokee Nation. My dad, Pat Bolin, was part Quapaw and my mother, Winona, was raised in an Indian Orphan School when she was taken from her mother.
The first time I saw the Lord's Prayer signed by a Quapaw in full dress was in memory of my dad at the Quapaw Powwow in Oklahoma. I thought it was so moving that I wanted to learn the sign. However, the Cherokees did not use sign language. My signing is actually American Sign Language, which I think is prettier than tribal sign language. Also, The Lord's Prayer in Cherokee is not the same prayer we are familiar with in the Bible. It was important to me to sign the prayer in full Indian dress, so I commissioned a beautiful native dress made out of five mule deer hides.
It is still very special and meaningful to sign and share The Lord's Prayer in our Sanctuary.
Mac Whitehorn loved his Grandma Irma's baking! He also knew that she often baked the communion bread for our church.
One communion Sunday when he was about 6 years old, Mac was excited to go forward and receive the Sacraments from his friend Justin's father, Rev. Bob Hager. He was also looking forward to enjoying a hunk of Grandma Irma's bread!
It came time for him to tear off the bread, and he did so carefully taking a good sized bite. Then as Rev. Hager spoke to him, Mac's eyes got big and he dropped the bread. He thought Rev. Hager said "My gosh you took a big piece" but, in fact, he had said "My God go with you in Peace."
Not understanding, the anxious 6 year old ran back to his seat... almost in tears. It was a communion experience that he and parents, Rob and Kim Whitehorn, will never forget!
BUILDING A CHURCH ON PRAYER
Constance Waddell shares her remembrances from the beginning years of First United Methodist Church in Rogers. Her thoughts are not meant to be chronological or a history….just the sweet memories from the wife of our first pastor, Rev. Don Waddell.It all started with prayer. "Oh, God, please, NO!" I muttered when I heard the Bishop of North Arkansas on the phone. "Constance", he said with a rush of energy and excitement in his voice, "I'm calling to offer Don the opportunity to meet with a group of people at Central UMC that want to form a new church. Don't you think he'll like having something to do now that he's retired?”
I gulped down my first response and said petulantly, "He may think it's a good idea, but I don't!" He's already retired three times and the last stint was a three point circuit where he preached three times every Sunday morning. “I'm ready for us to relax and play a little and maybe travel."
Don came home and we prayed for direction. I already knew the answer even before he phoned the Bishop. It was in the glow in his face. And it was in mine, too. We both like adventure. We both had always depended on God's call. After we opened our eyes from prayer, it now seemed right to me, too.
The message to us was that "a few old fuddy duddies just didn't understand how important it was to build a new church where the city was growing and where there were more people needing a church home”. A 'potluck" dinner was set up for us to have lunch with these "holdouts" after the church service on Sunday. What an amazing surprise to see Fellowship Hall brimming full of smiling people. Surely these weren't the ones we'd been told about?
That night, our prayers were brief. "Lead Us Lord!"
A "steering committee" that met weekly in homes, had been set up before Don was assigned to be their leader. They were mixed in their "take" on the situation. Some had wanted to leave the United Methodist Church. Others wanted to leave church, period. Others were confused but it comforted them to meet with a remnant of Central UMC . The steering committee had been organized to discover what the direction should be. Don found strong leaders, strong persons of faith and many who had a long history in Central as did their families before them. This encouraged him. He also found anger at those who were moving to a new location; hurt that the vote had been so close and yet the District Superintendent had moved that the vote was legal. There was a general need for retaliation at the unfairness they felt. A need to fight back at the District Superintendent and Bishop and to get those who were moving to hear their hurt and their need to keep the presence of a downtown church. Especially were they incensed that the church building they'd known and loved was to be torn down and the property sold to help pay for the new church in a more affluent area.
Don's leading from the beginning was to help the steering committee find purpose in starting their own church, since , in his visit with the Bishop it was clear that Central would be relocating. As he listened to the Steering Committee,(an ad hoc committee that had been meeting weekly to commiserate and to try to decide what to do) it was clear that they wanted to band together and try to stay in their beloved church edifice.
But it was also clear to him that that new church should not be built in anger or in trying to prove they were right. The need, he felt, was to do a U turn and ask God's presence in the joy of starting a new congregation built on love and mission. Many times, he met with the steering committee, steering toward them toward that goal. It wasn't a hard task. They were persons who were yearning for God's direction. And they seemed to find it easy to follow Don's lead as he talked with them and prayed with them for God's guidance. He asked the Bishop to bring the Central persons and what was now named, The New United Methodist Mission Church, together for a reconciliation service at which the Bishop would preach. He declined.
I was very busy fulfilling duties as Ms Senior Arkansas, but when the fledgling church entered the Rogers Christmas Parade and created a huge paper dove made of dryer sheets, it bonded the entire new congregation in the effort. Even the persons in the nursing homes were able to work on part of it right there in their rooms. And, always very inclusive, the group invited me to sit in a convertible right in front of that dove. Its wingspan was so wide that it knocked leaves off the trees on either side of the street. And our new church won the "KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF" award! It was a turning point. Bonding together, the church had turned toward the future and was beginning to leave the past in the "rear view mirror". Prayers were in the form of joyous celebration and excitement over "who we are" and "whose we are".
When I finally was free to join the steering committee the warmth of persons made me feel at home immediately. There were endless sticky problems that they were dealing with, trying to negotiate keeping the church building. Although Don had pointed out to the Bishop that the Church Discipline clearly stated that as long as any congregation desired to worship in a church building it was to be open to them and could not be torn down or sold. The need on the part of Central was to have money to build their new church. They felt that the church building belonged to Central and it was hard for them to recognize the new church that was being formed.
I listened to those on the steering committee week after week and was delighted at the lack of rancor and the desire to build their congregation on love. Don had brought his experience of the "abrazo" (hug) from long years in Chile. He modeled that and the evenings always ended in a prayer circle and hugs. It seemed natural to me that we should have a theme song and that it should be "You Will Know They Are Christians By Their Love”. And so it was.
The arrangement was finally agreed upon for us to buy the sanctuary. We would leave the schoolhouse where we had been meeting and our congregation would worship in a service between the two services Central had. There are lots of heart touching and funny and frantic stories about that period. In a book they should all be included.
During the time while meeting in the schoolhouse on Sundays, everything was "set up" in hours proceeding church. One family even carried their big fern from their home and adorned the meeting room with it. It earned the name: "The Holy Fern". Most heartening was the excitement when yet another "old member" appeared on Sunday Morning. Don had insisted that he would not visit Central members and urge them to leave and join us. But it happened anyway when they learned of the joy and surge of "the spirit" happening in our church. Another spontaneous act of joy was the sudden movement of persons to their feet in a standing ovation. They thought it was for Don. But, Don insisted then and that night as we prayed together, that it was not him they were praising but God. He wanted the congregation to know that their feelings of warmth and purpose and God's spirit was just that. God's Spirit had fallen upon us. Like the birth of a child, the splendor of the experience of the birth of a new church had all of us awestruck. If it had been the seventies, we would have said: "Praise the Lord". In our prayers, we were saying "Thank You God", we don't know what is happening but we felt we are on Holy Ground. And we were "knowing each other as Christians by our love"
Before we moved back to the Central Church, there needed to be a headquarters, a place to meet each other, a place for carrying on small meetings and for a secretary to conduct business. Space was rented and one of the members named it "The Dove's Nest". It took our symbol in to account and also it became sort of a nest, a home, for us during the week.
Don, too needed an office where he could conduct business or talk over problems with members and, especially, where he could meet with persons in need— spiritually and emotionally. Some came with soul searching problems to share and pray with him. His office was separated only by a large glass window and yet people seemed not to mind the visibility. For us, who could see one whose face was so serious or was shedding tears somehow the panorama conveyed the symbol of the comfort and nurture to be found in this building.
One group I started was called Prayer and Praise. We met monthly and after I set the stage with some kind of "teaching", we discussed it in smaller groups and then ended with prayers. Of course we brought refreshments and we had fun. One time (I can't imagine what the teaching theme was) we all wore big hats. And, of course, there were always hugs. It grew almost too large for our little building, but the crowded space added to our excitement and anticipation of the time when we would be in the church building again.
Everyone felt the Dove's Nest was our own place. I'm purposely not putting names in any of my stories because I know I'd miss so many and all were important. There were those who arranged worship settings in what used to be a store window. Others served as secretaries, worked on a newsletter, met in committees and others who just dropped in to sit and talk in informal groups. The Dove's Nest turned out to be the perfect transition place while we were waiting for the glorious day that we could return to Third and Elm and "home" to these "children of God" who had been separated from their beloved church building.
After the joyful prayers in the sanctuary persons signed their name as charter members of the First United Methodist Church and after Don had competed his interim time as pastor, we did something both of us had never done before! We stayed on in the church!
The new pastor strongly, and we felt sincerely, invited us to be a part of the fledgling congregation. And though we had both been committed to move on after stepping down from leadership, we decided this time was an exception. Don was not well, facing surgery and we felt old and in need of the warmth of this congregation. And so it was! Our hearts burst with joy as we saw the church flourish, grow and stay committed to missions and "brother and sistering" each other. And they responded well to the new minister, a sure sign of their commitment to their own ministries and to Methodism.
Prayer was an integral part of the church. While Don was pastor, he had incorporated witnesses of faith from the congregation into the Sunday Worship. He had also started "Breakfast With Don", a weekly time of his faith teaching and of open sharing from the men. He was urged to continue and did until we felt the call to return again to the mission field of Chile.
During the first year after Don had retired as their pastor, some of the women asked me to start a prayer group to gather each week at the altar and "lift up" the church members and especially the staff. We named it Sanctuary Prayer. Once a journalist did a feature story about us and we got calls from persons in the community with prayer requests. One was amazing to me. It was the wife of my childhood pastor who had been the most influential one in my decisions about "Full Time Christian Service." Since I now had a different last name, she didn't connect me with anyone she knew. But she desperately needed prayers for her daughter who was critically ill with cancer.
These are just a few of hundreds of memories I have about how God led us through the 'wilderness' of those days and then to the "promise land" of the new church. Plus the hundreds of stories about our fellowship times in the church and mission trips. Even after we were in Chile, our prayer connection with the church continued. Work teams who came to support us there were such a strengthening force in the difficulties we experienced there. In each work team, we also took prayer partners that I remember sometimes even now in my old age as treasures to take out and cherish on those nights when I need their hugs. Just like we always readily gave—in the beginning.
Don and Constance Waddell now live in Pilgrim Place located in Claremont, California. Pilgrim Place is the collective spirit of those called to careers in religious or charitable non-profit organizations who wish to reside in an intellectually/theologically stimulating, ecologically sensitive, personally active environment.
Sanctuary Stories is available now…
Copies can be purchased in the church office: $10.00
First United Methodist Church Office
307 W. Elm – Rogers, Arkansas