Oxford UMC: We’re still open

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I understand that the word on the street is that Oxford United Methodist Church, 601 W. Washington St., has either closed or will be closing in the near future.

Oxford, like so many older churches, has had a vibrant past. In October, the church celebrated 100 years in its present location, but like so many other churches, its membership dwindled until it became a small congregation with attendance made up mostly of older persons. That is where Oxford finds itself today.

Over the past months, Oxford has been looking at where it finds itself and what its options are for the future. Many were considered — some were not feasible, some not the direction the church felt called to follow.


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After much prayer and discussion, in January the Administrative Board of Oxford voted to keep the church open, and it appointed committees to look at what we might do to become a “Turnaround Church.”

To become a Turnaround Church, we know that we cannot continue as we have over the past 20 or so years, as membership and attendance have shrunk. If we do, the future of the church will be very bleak and brief. We cannot afford to be a church whose pastor simply serves as a chaplain to the current membership until it dies.

The changes call for us to begin to serve the community in which we are located, as we also continue to minister to the current membership.

The committees appointed in January are already at work. One is seeking ways to reclaim those members in the Suffolk area who are no longer attending. This is one of the most difficult groups to bring back to the church. Many have had some bad experiences with the church, and carry that hurt for many years. Some may never return; some need only to be encouraged and shown that they are needed to help carry out the church’s ministries.

Another committee was assigned to look for ways we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that will invite those not now in a relationship with Him to come to Him and to Oxford. We are also looking at ways we can keep them at Oxford once they have visited. This has become very difficult, because with a small membership, we do not have what many are looking for in a church. We need people to be patient with us until we grow enough to provide those things that a larger church can provide.

A group of Oxford members is being asked to support all that we will be doing with a prayer ministry. These “Prayer Warriors” will be praying for the church and its ministry each day at 1 p.m. and will be vital to what happens.

As we begin to find ways to reach out to the community, those who live around Oxford will receive invitations to come to the church for special events. These events will help us get to know our community and let the community get to know us. This will enable us to determine what ministries are needed.

In the meantime, we invite anyone who does not have a church home to come and visit with us. We are located at the corner of West Washington Street and Broad Street. Sunday services include a prayer meeting at 9:40 a.m., Sunday school at 10 a.m. and worship at 11 a.m. There are also women’s groups that meet each month. Other services and programs will be added as the need arises.

If you have questions, call the church office at 539-8253 Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon. We look forward to seeing you in person or hearing from you on the phone.