Several years ago,Rolland Lang did some research down at the Geneva History Museum about our church and unearthed this photo. It is the earliest photo we have of Methodists in Geneva dating to around 1839, when the first Methodist class started in Geneva with two women and one man.
Next week, on Sept 27th, we will mark 149 years of Methodism at the corner of 2nd and Hamilton Streets and 184 years of Methodists in Geneva, and I keep thinking about the faith, perseverance, sacrifice, and leadership of these women (and surely some men too), who by faithfulness gave the Methodist movement roots in Geneva.
Since receiving this photo two and half years ago, these women have been a source of inspiration to me. I don’t know their story, but I do know that what started with 3 women in 1839 grew to 88 members by 1850. I think of these women, and I am reminded about how God multiplies meager gifts into abundant means of grace – like loaves and fishes feasts.
Fast forward to 1877, when the original sanctuary that is now our Fellowship Hall was sold by the sheriff to satisfy the construction debt that the church defaulted on and I look to the story of a different set of three women leaders (and I’m sure some guys, too), who found a way through hard work, persistent faith, and the presence of the Holy Spirit to redeem the building and continue the Methodist movement. I am reminded that through sacrifice God brings new life. That’s why this picture of a Sunday School picnic in Pottawatomi Park dated June 9, 1894 exists, as well as this one from Fellowship time from February 2023! All thanks to God and the faith of our forebearers!
I look around at our strong women leaders (and all others) today and I believe God is still working to this day; taking our meager gifts and preparing abundant means of grace. I see the sacrifice and faithfulness of so many people in our church today and I see God taking these offerings of time, talent and treasure and bringing new life into our church.
I get misty-eyed wondering if the new energy we’re experiencing in our church today could be God working a 2800% increase, like God did through the faith of a few in the 1840s? Or that perhaps a future pastor will be writing about UMCG’s bicentennial building celebration five decades from now and will look back on photos like this and wonder, who were these women? How did God empower their sacrifice and faith (and probably some guys too) to bring new life to UMCG in the 2070’s?
I am grateful to be part of such a generous church, filled with strong leaders and faithful servants today, and dating back 184 years. Thank you for including me as part of this journey. I am also excited to start planning for September 2024 where we celebrate 150 years in this location and 185 years of Methodism in Geneva (let me know if you want to help plan the celebration.) Most of all, I am humble and grateful to be one small part of what God started 184 years ago and seems to have no plans stopping any time soon!