Congregations may become discouraged when they see few people in worship on Sunday mornings. That was the case at Chester United Methodist Church in the Foothills District.
However, Chester members decided to be encouraged by their asset: land. Beside the church building, Chester owns land where an elementary school once stood.
In 2021, laity leaders began to pray about the best use for the land. According to Pastor Walt Goble, the book, “Dynamite Prayer: A 28-Day Experiment,” written by Rosario Picardo and Sue Nilson Kibbey guided their direction. They decided to focus on health and fitness.
The community has been harmed by issues that plague many Appalachian communities. Additional harm came with the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine in response to COVID-19 pandemic. Brent Buckley, a layman and the project leader, said, “Poverty drives people to many different paths that adversely impact their physical and mental health. We wanted to provide an alternative.”
While Goble credited Buckley with being the “dreamer” for the endeavor, Buckley quickly noted, “Many have worked on this project, contributing ideas and opinions on how to proceed.”
Part one of the project was to update the basketball courts and baseball fields. Through grants, this project was completed, and the church began to see more and more youth come to the church to play. Slowly, Sunday worship attendance started to increase.
The next phase involves building a quarter-mile concrete ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant walking trail around the property. The track is intended to draw adults to walk, run or ride their bikes. Buckley sees a diverse group using the track from a person using a wheelchair to a mother walking her baby in a stroller.
Chester UMC was awarded a $44,000 grant from the West Ohio Conference to complete the project. The award will be presented to the church this month by Brad Aycock, Director of WOC Fresh Starts & New Beginnings and District Superintendent the Rev. Mark Chow.
“There is a level of excitement and gratitude,” Gobel said. “The West Ohio Conference sees the vision. For a smaller church, it means a lot. Other churches see the excitement, and it is building unity with other churches.”
“God has provided for our community,” Buckley said, “and we are absolutely thrilled to be a mechanism through which he is working.”
Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist