The merger of May Avenue United Methodist and Ridgecrest United Methodist into Cornerstone is one example of the diverse ways Oklahoma's United Methodists are offering ministry throughout the state.
The Rev. Robert Hayes Jr. said he and conference leaders like to try alternatives that keep churches from closing their doors.
In Oklahoma City, they have created what he called satellite congregations by placing smaller, inner-city churches such as Hillcrest Fuente de Vita, 5801 S Pennsylvania, and Christ United Methodist Church, 1006 NE 17, under the umbrella of a vital larger church, in this case, St. Luke's United Methodist, 222 NW 15.
“You put them under a mother church, a strong church with a strong DNA,” said Hayes, bishop for the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference.
He also said he has been pleased with a creative church venture in rural Oklahoma.
Two sisters in Fitzhugh, in Pontotoc County, have brought new life to Roff United Methodist Church, he said. The church was closed in 2011 due to dwindling membership and finances.
Lynn Cordial and Sherry Jones, members of Fitzhugh United Methodist, were heartbroken to see the church in the nearby city close its doors. Cordial said the Roff church has been in existence more than 100 years.
She said she and her sister had recently retired and moved from other places back to Fitzhugh to be with their mother and become part of the community again.
She said they were driving in the smaller city of Roff one day and stopped to look in the windows of the Roff church.
She said they immediately knew they wanted to see the church open again as a faith-centered building.
The church had closed Dec. 31, 2011, and signs of the joyous Christmas season, such as a nativity scene, could be seen from the window.
“It was very sad,” she said. “We feel like when a church dies, a community dies.”
New purpose in Roff
Cordial said they talked with members of their church and applied for several grants in hopes the Roff church could open again in some capacity. She said they received several grants, including a Petree Grant from the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation.
The grant, along with support from businesses, the Fitzhugh church and several fundraisers, helped the sisters open the Roff church's doors as the Roff Outreach Mission in fall 2012. The mission offers a diaper ministry and collaborates with a state program that aids women, infants and children.
The mission also connects with students through United Campus Ministry at East Central University in Ada and works with Abbas Tables, a meal program, also in Ada, Cordial said.
Mission volunteers are preparing for an October Fest event at the Roff site to help raise funds for the mission efforts, she said.
A few naysayers predicted the idea wouldn't work, but the sisters and most of the members of their church stood behind the effort, Cordial said.
“It just takes a couple of people — an act of kindness here or there — to show people that the Bible is not just a legend. It's a living book, and we may be the only Bible that they know, through our actions,” Cordial said.
“We just wanted to keep the doors open and let people know there's hope there.”