On March 2, 2003, I was accepted into membership of the United Church of Christ in Power, Mont. Was I ready? After attending this 39-member church for 35 years and serving it in many capacities, I felt a call to be listed among its members.
As a child, I was baptized in the Methodist Church and I grew up loving the Methodist rituals, history and, most of all, the beloved Methodist hymnody. When I became a teacher, I attended Methodist churches in various Montana towns where I worked and lived. Thirty-five years ago, my husband and I, and our two children, moved to Power, a small prairie town in the wheat center of Montana.
At that time (and still) Power had three churches: Roman Catholic, Missouri Synod Lutheran and UCC. We could have gone to a Methodist Church 10 miles away, but I was then a firm believer in supporting a church in the community where I lived. Our family, therefore, made a trial visit to Power UCC where we immediately felt welcomed and appreciated. This congregation had begun as a community church, and it still has the characteristics of such a church. Many in the fellowship were not UCC members because they chose to retain their original church memberships.
My husband and I did not join the UCC, though our children were confirmed in this church. On the untimely death of my husband, I was left a widow in this very caring and loving church. The years passed, and though I was a deaconess, an historian and a member of the church memorial committee, I still did not make a move toward church membership. I decorated the church for every holiday and dinner. I wrote the news for the church newsletter. Living across the street from the church made me a natural for an unpaid watchman. Truly I served the Lord and this church with gladness but without official membership.
Power UCC recently went through a four and a half year period of search for a permanent pastor. The search was often disappointing. However in June of 2002, we were elated to welcome a fine minister, the Rev. J. William Hawk, who came out of retirement to be our pastor. He brought with him a splendid awareness of the UCC. He became my mentor in a thorough study of the UCC, and he spent many hours answering my questions and straightening out my misjudgments of the UCC. I made the decision to become a church member thinking I would be accepted on a confession of faith. However, this wise pastor helped me complete a study of the UCC that is ongoing and rewarding.
A very happy ending to this story is that, in May, my daughter and I attended the 118th General Conference of the Montana-Northern Wyoming UCC in Bozeman, Mont. We were delegates from the church that I have attended for 35 years.
Dorothy E. Payton is truly a member of Power UCC in Montana. Focus on Faith is a readerwritten column to help others grow in their faith. We welcome submissions from laity and clergy.