SHERRARD -- Be patient. God's not finished with Sherrard's Community Presbyterian Church.|
"You may have heard the congregation was closed, or on the way to closing," church pastor the Rev. Drew Nagle wrote in a late summer church newsletter. Though the decision was made in January 2012 to close in April 2013, "the working of God led to a new decision in December 2012," he wrote.
Rev. Nagle, also pastor at Gloria Dei Presbyterian Church in Rock Island, said he came to the Sherrard church in February 2012 to "help with a transition to reach a good end by Easter."
He said the congregation decided "it would be best if the church closed, and let money it was taking to keep it going be used to the glory of God in other ways in the community. Over the last five to 10 years, the church was declining in members, finances, and the church was aging."
However, in later conversations about "what it meant to close, members felt a strong sense that God wasn't finished with them yet," so decided in December to keep going for at least another year or so, Rev. Nagle said.
"People in the community have developed the image of a church in trouble," he said. "They heard how we might have been out of people and out of money."
An average of 18 people regularly attend services, Rev. Nagle said.
"But the message people might not have heard yet, was about the discussion of what and where God is leading us to now, or of our giving thanks to God for the ministries of a beloved 100-year-old congregation," he said. "We want people to know that this ministry that had slipped is making a comeback."
He said church members participated in the recent Sherrard homecoming parade. "It was the first time anyone remembers us doing that. We're hoping people who saw us at homecoming serving hot dogs and handing out candy will realize and recognize that 'oh, there is a church here for people who aren't just 90 years old or more.'"
The church also began serving breakfast after the only restaurant in town that served morning meals closed, Rev. Nagle said. The church opens from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for people to "come down and have a cup of coffee and a slice of toast, and have a chance to visit with your neighbors and make new friends," according to a brochure.
He said the church hosted breakfast in the 1980s and '90s, after a similar restaurant closing.
"When a new restaurant opened back then, the church stopped serving breakfast as a community gesture in support of new businesses, and, if a restaurant opens again, the same thing will happen," Rev. Nagle said.
Community Presbyterian also hosts a free Chat and Chow community meal from 6 to 8 p.m. one Thursday a month. This month's lasagna and garlic bread meal will be held Oct. 24. A Nov. 21 gathering will feature soup, sandwiches and dessert, while a potato bar will be featured on Dec. 19.
"We had thought about helping other groups with theirs, such as Preemption Methodist's free community meal, but decided we should just do our own here," Rev. Nagle said.
The church also has increased its Bible study classes, including one on the book of Philippians at 9 a.m. on "drop-in Thursdays," he said. The Philippians class is followed by a 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. time for conversation, community building and arts projects, such as quilting, and a "Binky Patrol" that makes homemade blankets for kids born to mothers who were HIV/AIDs positive, drug-addicted or inflicted by other chronic or terminal illnesses, or for abused, foster or traumatized children from newborns to 18-year-olds.
A Presbyterian Women's Group remains active and is open to all women at 9 a.m. meetings the third Thursday of every month, Rev. Nagle said. "They do a wonderful job of quilting, sewing, embroidery work and such projects.
"We're also trying to revive our Sunday school program, and had a vacation Bible school this summer in partnership with First Lutheran," Rev. Nagle said.
Sunday worship services are at 9 a.m. at the church, 201 3rd St, Rev. Nagle then travels to Gloria Dei Presbyterian, 4200 12th St., Rock Island, to lead its 10:30 a.m. services.
He has served at Gloria Dei for 24-plus years, and says the shared-pastoring agreement is "a doable ministry for me," and good for both churches in terms of sharing his salary costs.
Rev. Nagle also spends two days a week in Sherrard.
Community Presbyterian's perseverance is inspiring, he said. When it opened as a Congregational Church in 1895, Sherrard was a mining boom town, but when the mines went out in the 1920s, the church managed to survive, Rev. Nagel said.
"The church has suffered from the start," he said. "When they were building the church, a wind storm knocked it down. After they started over, then a fire burned it down."
It all boils down to the "perseverance, of listening to what God's calling them to do and be," Rev. Nagle said. "I think this Sherrard church is moving forward with a greater sense of mission. It's not as much about surviving now, as it is about outreach. God's ministry is the key."
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