Elba First United Methodist Church Embraces Change
The oldest church in Elba has seen a lot of change in its 104 years. Most recently, it experienced the retirement of the Rev. Stanley Carter, who had led the church for 11 years. This summer, the Rev. Michael Lawler was assigned to the church, coming from Eclectic United Methodist Church.
The church is also seeing change in its music program as organist Pam Baker retired after 50 years of service. Another change in the music program is the addition of community hand bells. Members of the community from all churches and faiths practice pieces they will perform at various events around the town every Tuesday night.
The church itself is full of history. The stained glass windows, which were dedicated by a widow in the community to her late husband and his fellow Confederate soldiers, were interesting to me.
The large sanctuary was mostly filled this Sunday. The congregation is made up mostly of older citizens as well as a few middle-aged and younger congregants. The worship leader, Ray Hoobler, played both the organ and piano and led the church in song.
I lucked out and ended up visiting on the day the church had a fellowship lunch after the service to get to know Rev. Lawler and his wife Peggy better. I had never been to a Methodist church before, and I was curious about the new preacher who has made such a splash in Elba. New residents seem to be few and far between, and the town seems ready to embrace a new leader in the community.
The congregation in Elba is not one to cling to old ways. In leadership and in music, the church is experiencing a new season. As they seem to do with all things, the people of Elba First United Methodist Church embrace change and follow faithfully. They welcomed Rev. Lawler and his family just like they embraced me this morning. Based on their strong history, the church seems poised to continue to serve Elba and surrounding communities for many years to come.