A Little Change Goes A Long Way; Lenten Campaign Supports Neighbors

Tommy Johnston making a bank

Tommy Johnston builds a church-shaped bank that was used to collect funds during the campaign. 

To honor its 180th anniversary, First UMC and Connections in Paris raise $180 for five East District churches

In days of old, United Methodist preachers oversaw a circuit — a cluster of churches they would travel between on horseback to preach and minister in different communities. To honor its 180th anniversary, First UMC and Connections in Paris launched the “Spark the Circuit” campaign during Lent to raise money for neighboring churches in the East District.

Beneficiaries receiving $180 checks are Ector UMC, Market Street UMC in Mabank, Mt. Zion UMC in Paris, and McKenzie UMC and St. Paul’s UMC, both in Clarksville.

“When Senior Pastor Kathryn Strempke brought the Spark the Circuit idea to our pastoral team, I was immediately excited,” Connections pastor Jarrod Johnston said. “As a historic congregation in the region, celebrating the existence of Methodism in Paris for 180 years, I’m so grateful that Connections and FUMC Paris answered the Holy Spirited call to send some of our abundance out of our community and across the East District. I pray that the churches that receive these offerings can feel some peace knowing that in United Methodism, no congregation stands alone, and that we’re all in this together.”

For Strempke, the idea was borne out of her desire to support neighboring churches as they work to make ends meet. “We can’t solve their problems, but we can let them know they are not alone. There’s a new church start in Mabank! We can’t fund them, but we can encourage their ministry,” she said.

In her Lenten challenge to the congregation, Strempke encouraged members to take home church-shaped banks and deposit the funds they would have spent on the things they gave up for Lent. 

In her message to the congregation, she wrote, “Do you give up your sugared super-coffee at Starbucks for a plain cup of Joe during Lent? The money you save could go into your offering bank. Or maybe Thursday night is fast food night, but during Lent you go simpler — have cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. The money you save could go into your offering bank. Or maybe you really do FAST in Lent and skip a meal during each week. (John Wesley would be proud!) The money you save could go into your offering bank.”

All those dollars and quarters added up quickly and $900 was returned to the church on Easter Sunday to Spark the Circuit. Church representatives from FUMC Paris and Connections will present checks to the five East District churches on April 23.

“The generous action of First UMC Paris is an excellent example of our connection at work,” said East District Superintendent Rev. Cassie Wade. “While honoring the deep heritage of Methodism in Lamar County over the last 180 years, these faithful United Methodists are boldly making their Wesleyan witness heard by coming alongside their sister churches in the area. I am always delighted at the ways our UMCs share the light of Christ with the world.”

Strempke emphasized: “This shows that the strength of the United Methodist connection is alive and well! Sure, there are some strains, but that doesn’t mean that the Word isn’t still being preached and acted out and mission isn’t still happening. Spark the Circuit is about recognizing we’re in it together. We never do this stuff alone.”

Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2023