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Faith in Action: Hermon UMC is small church with big heart

By Deborah Peterson • Mar 14, 2020 at 10:30 AM

Members describe it as ‘a small country church,’ but the Hermon United Methodist Church makes a big difference in its community and across the world. Located in Gate City, Virginia, the church is known by many as ‘a giving church with a big heart.’

“This church amazes me in what they spend for outreach for other people. Anything that comes up, they’re out there to do it,” said Pastor Regina Shelton, a resident of nearby Church Hill, Tennessee.

For a congregation with an average attendance of 25, the church supports many organizations: Holston United Methodist Home for Children, Shades of Grace, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), Arcadia UMC food pantry, Scott County Christmas CART, Native American Heritage Association and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In December, a cash prize awarded for the members’ float in the Bloomingdale Ruritan Christmas Parade was donated to St Jude. Members assemble and deliver fruit baskets to local shut-ins during the holidays. On a global scale, the church contributes (through the Holston Conference of United Methodist Church) to the Zimbabwe backpack ministry and the Hope for South Sudan ministry. Herman UMC raised over $1,000 to provide mosquito nets and water wells in South Sudan, Africa.

“The wells and the nets came from our own little congregation and I’m sort of proud of that. It’s a very giving church,” said Lonnie Broughton of Kingsport. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have been active members for 30 years.

Founded in 1870, the first building served as both a church and a school. In 1890, it was moved to its current location on East Carters Valley Road and remained a school for many years. In 1921, the building was purchased by the Methodist Episcopal Church. Rebecca Fields of Kingsport, who has been a member since she was 10 years old, fondly recalled her earliest memories.

“We used to walk the two to three miles to church every Sunday. We had a pot-bellied stove in the middle of the floor,” she recalled. Her great-grandfather, Simon Peter Ketron, and her grandfather, John Wesley Ketron, were early members of the church. “The people are so nice and friendly; always have been,” Rebecca said.

“You just feel the Spirit here all the time; it’s a remarkable place to worship,” she added.

Judy Dean, a resident of Surgoinsville, became a member of Hermon UMC last July. She was looking for a church to attend, and said her search was over after visiting Hermon. “From the very first Sunday that I went there, I felt the Holy Spirit as soon as I walked inside the door,” she shared. “If a person is looking for a place to worship where they can feel the presence of the Lord in a loving environment, then Hermon is the place.”

In addition to pastoring at Hermon UMC, Pastor Regina is also pastor of Arcadia United Methodist Church in Kingsport. Though they are located in two different states, the churches are less than two miles apart. On Sunday mornings, she preaches at Hermon at 9:30 a.m. and at Arcadia at 11 a.m. She compares herself to a ‘circuit rider,’ who goes from one church to the other. After undergoing a liver transplant in 2016, Pastor Regina took a leave of absence for three years. She is now doing well and continuing in the ministry she has loved for many years.

One of her goals for Hermon UMC, she said, is to see increased membership. “Not for numbers, but because it represents souls,” she said. “I hope that it continues to grow and that we continue to see lives spiritually changed in the area.”

Pastor Regina said she would also like to see the children’s ministry grow. They have a children’s message every Sunday, which she calls “the highlight of the service.” On Christmas Eve, the church hosted a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” party, which 22 children attended.

“We need to reach everyone at the church, no matter what age they are. Even if we’ve got one child, we owe it to him to provide a Christian education,” she said.

Hermon UMC will celebrate its 150th anniversary during a celebration on March 29.

A lot has changed over the years, but God’s presence remains strong. Written on the back of the church bulletin are these words: “We extend a hearty welcome to everyone to worship with us. When you visit, notice some of the oil lamps that were used to give us light are still on the wall, reminding us that God’s light still shines at Hermon United Methodist Church.”

The church is located at 5395 East Carter’s Valley Road in Gate City. Sunday service is at 9:30 a.m. To learn more about the church or its upcoming anniversary celebration, call (423) 256-3180.

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