October is a special month in the life of our congregation. We held our first worship service on September 18, 1960. But it was on October 20 that year that fifty families were received into membership. This is the fifty-sixth year of our life together, and on the Sunday closest to that date we will welcome back a beloved pastor and longtime friend, the Rev. Dr. Martha Rowlett.
For those who don’t know Martha, she served as Senior Pastor from 1988 to 1998. She helped our congregation discover a renewed sense of purpose and vitality. During her ten year tenure our Family Ministries and Parish Nursing programs were given birth, along with our Monday morning Prayer Partners. With the help of an eager and hopeful team of leaders, she led the effort to build the present sanctuary and office building. Her late husband, the Rev. Dr. Bob Arnott, a retired pastor, seminary professor and president, loved this church family almost as much as Martha did. He taught classes like “Christianity 101”, and made sure to exchange hugs out on the patio every Sunday. One of the two stained glass windows at the front of the sanctuary was dedicated by the congregation in gratitude for Martha’s faithful and encouraging ministry.
So this October, the church will celebrate our 56th birthday, so to speak. And it was Martha, when she and I were visiting more than a year ago, who pointed out something I had not noticed before. She served as pastor for the ten years before I was appointed to be with you. And now I have completed 18 years since the summer of 1998. So between the two of us that makes 28 years – exactly half of the 56 years since those first new members were welcomed into the fold.
Many congregations never experience the continuity of leadership that we have seen. In fact, over the first 28 years of its life RHUMC was served by six different senior pastors. Both Martha and I feel blessed to have had the chance to get to know this community well, and to walk with you on the journeys of life and faith.
Martha will be our preacher at all three services on Sunday, October 23. We will give thanks for her leadership, as well as her continued friendship and support. During her last visit we were in the midst of our Phase One construction. Now we are looking forward to breaking ground once more, and continuing the momentum and progress that she helped bring about. I am glad and grateful that she will be with us and look forward to what she will bring to us that day.
Grace and peace,