Grace UMC East End consecrates first facility

A United Methodist congregation founded eight years ago now has its own space for full-time, all-week-long ministry.

Grace UMC East End at worship.  COURTESY PHOTO

Grace UMC East End at worship.
COURTESY PHOTO

Grace UMC East End on May 31, 2015, consecrated its building. Planted in 2007 by Sardis United Methodist Church, Grace Church’s plan was to reach the community through the school where it met, East End Intermediate School.

“Sardis saw a need to reach more people and they sacrificed so that this could happen,” said the Rev. Tommy Jones, Grace UMC’s pastor.

Grace started out with worship in the school’s cafeteria, meeting at 5 p.m. on Sunday nights. As the church grew, it moved into the school gym and eventually moved the worship time to 10 a.m.

As growth continued, the vision began to change. The school facilities were only available four hours a day, one day a week. People held church-related meetings in homes, but the leadership at Grace felt called to do more, and planning for a building began. For two years Grace prayed and prepared.

“We believed we needed to do more, more often in our community,” Jones said. “And this would involve a central meeting area that could be used to service this area 24/7.”

The building sits at 24300 Hwy 167, technically in Hensley. Demographic information indicates that in the next five years, the population of the East End area of Saline County should be around 10,000—plenty of new people to be reached in the name of Christ.

“Everything we have belongs to God, and we will use everything we have to go after the 10,000, and with God’s blessing we will win some,” Jones said.

Grace UMC plans to use its new space not just for worship, but also for prayer and programs to provide restoration, such as Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and other recovery and healing ministries. They already use the new space to facilitate small groups, provide community gatherings and promote unifying activities for the community.

They use the building in service to others, as well, such as hosting the graduation ceremony for Dorcas House women’s shelter.

“We are going to focus as one church, on one mission, and use all we have to push toward the goal of loving people in the same way God has loved us,” Jones said.

When Grace UMC started in the school cafeteria there were 25 people; for the first three weeks in its new facility, worship attendance averaged 380.

“Our building is being used to create more space for people to be restored, connected and empowered to serve,” Jones said. “That is what we do.”