More Than A Fish Fry: Making Disciples At Cuthand UMC
In 2021, the Red River County church baptized 11 people, celebrated 11 new professions of faith
A small country church in the far reaches of Red River County is making a big splash as new members are being baptized and making their professions of faith. In 2021, Cuthand UMC baptized 11 people — many of them in the same pond that has been used for baptisms since the church was founded just after World War II. They also celebrated 11 new professions of faith.
Pastor John Purviance credits the warm welcome from the community, the talented bluegrass musicians in the band and, above all, God’s grace for the growth they have seen.
“When people come here, I want them to know the Holy Spirit has been here,” Pastor Purviance said. “And not only have they been in the presence of the Holy Spirit for these last hour and 20 minutes, but now they can realize, ‘I am empowered to go home with my family. I'm empowered to go into my workplace tomorrow, empowered to go into my community and do something for Christ. I’m empowered by everything that I'm learning here that I'm going to take with me and go out and share it.’ That's what I hope for.”
In a town that is technically unincorporated territory, Cuthand UMC draws ranchers and families from across the area. When Purviance and his family joined Cuthand UMC when he was in high school, there were 16 people in the church. Today their membership is just under 300.
Just a few hundred yards down the gravel road from the church, the Volunteer Fire Department’s marquee advertises an upcoming Fish Fry and Pie Auction to raise funds for their life-saving work. Purviance sees that event as a model for the kind of community he strives to cultivate at Cuthand UMC.
“You go down there on Saturday night, and you have all these people out there singing country or playing the guitar singing gospel music. Everybody's just gathered around as friends and family and the whole atmosphere is just a nice family-friendly feeling. So why not take that — I call it the fish fry concept — why not take the fish fry concept, bring it into the church but then infuse it with the gospel, infuse it with the word of God, infuse it with the Holy Spirit. Take it from being a temporary night at the fish fry into an eternal relationship with our Lord and Father through Jesus Christ.”
This has been a model that has worked at Cuthand UMC for nearly 20 years of growth.
“I don't know if it'll work everywhere but it works here,” Pastor Purviance said.
After an Easter service 10 years ago when people had to stand outside and listen through the windows, it was clear the community had outgrown the small country church from the 1940s. They began to pray about building a bigger church. Some members were concerned that either Pastor Purviance might leave or the new members might not stay.
Said Purviance, “It's not about me, it's not about the new people. It’s about what God is doing.”
It is clear God is doing something powerful in the ponds and byways of this country church and lives are being changed as they continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2022