"I will give you pastors after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." Jeremiah 3:15
My Dad gave me a poster with the above words on it shortly after I first became a pastor 15 years ago. It has hung in every church office I've occupied since then. I invite you to share some memories of these years with me below.
This is a week when United Methodist pastors across the connection are moving to new appointments, leaving old appointments, retiring, beginning or staying, looking forward to the next year. I've sometimes described it as musical chairs to non-Methodists, when everyone moves to the next seat in the midst of a melody of love and care for our precious congregations.
I served my first church in Marlow NH from 2005-2009 and it was a dear place that deeply formed me. It was a quarter time appointment which enabled me to continue my job supervising the legal clinics at Franklin Pierce Law Center, caring for my young son, getting my undergraduate degree in Human Services from Franklin Pierce College, continuing in the first year to worship at Rejuvenation! and sing with EP each week and begin my time at Boston University School of Theology. This precious community holds a dear place in my heart. My field education (internship) was to a second church, East Lempster UMC to see what Christian community might rise from the ashes after that church had closed four years previously.
I was then appointed to Brattleboro VT to First United Methodist Church from 2009-2016 where I finished my seminary career traveling to Boston several times a week and serving the church full-time. Some of the unique characteristics of that church were that we did billowing - a form of dance with long flowing bands of cloth. We had a community garden that produced hundreds of pounds of vegetables for community feeding programs. We held an annual Drive Through Nativity driving around the church with luminaries lighting the path through nine scenes of scripture leading up to Christ's birth. I also enjoyed significant ministry with incarcerated individuals through the Brattleboro Community Justice Center during my tenure here. In the last two years of my appointment here I also served Leyden United Methodist Church in MA. I would conduct an early worship service in Leyden and then travel to Brattleboro for a second service each week. Leyden is a farming community with wholesome and loving people whose teddy bear prayer ministry is heartwarming as they pray over the bears and deliver them to those in need. Leyden has a booth at the Franklin County Fair where they make the most delicious homemade meals for fairgoers each year with pounds and pounds of carrots and onions and potatoes. We would hold our worship service in that booth on the Sunday of the fair for all to join!
From 2016-2019 I served Lake Sunapee United Methodist Church (2/3) and Grantham United Methodist Church (1/3) as a full-time appointment. Grantham is a healthy, service oriented church that innovated wonderful ways to serve the community like bringing dozens of Advent boxes filled with 24 thoughtful gifts prepared by congregants to dozens of homebound people in the community and community servants. We also innovated a delightful Gas Giveaway event each spring where we had the local gas station roll back the pumps ten cents a gallon. We then pumped gas, washed windows and brought coffee to patrons in their cars, with the church paying ten cents for every gallon and for all of the coffee we gave away. We got to know the community and shared a lot of joy and laughter! We had many successful leadership retreats, fundraisers for our partners bringing education to Sierra Leone and Blessings of the Pets. In Sunapee, I reached out to the community by serving a buffet every Friday night to the coffee house which used our space, offered weekly worship services at three area nursing homes and trained to become an Emergency Medical Responder and Firefighter with Sunapee Fire Department, spending my Tuesday evenings with 20-30 of the most wonderful firefighters and going on calls ministering to people in the community. I even got to play Mrs. Claus for the annual children's party. Santa and I arrived at the event riding on Ladder 5!
Over the course of these fifteen years I have also married dozens of couples, buried dozens of saints, baptized dozens of babies and confirmed dozens of children. In fact, one of the young women in my last confirmation class was instrumental in that church becoming the fourth reconciling congregation in NH!
I am so pleased to be beginning my second year serving Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord NH. This is a vibrant, caring and socially active church, healthy in its interactions and deeply spiritually grounded. I can't wait to see what we'll do together in Christ's name through Christ's love for the people of Concord and beyond.
Rev. Cheryl L. Meachen, Pastor
Wesley United Methodist Church
Visit Pastor Cheryl's blog for inspiration and encouragement