Lifelong United Methodist Helps New Church Start
(Rev. Kelli Hitchman-Craig) - Billy and Rebecca Crews moved to Prattville, Alabama in 1970. Their first order of business? Finding a church. Quickly, the Crews found their home at Prattville First United Methodist Church. Little did they know, their time at First Methodist would be short. Around the time of the Crews’ arrival at First United Methodist, their congregation was in the process of starting a new faith community in an up-and-coming area of Prattville where neighborhoods were being developed. First Methodist’s mission was to be the church where the city was growing.
Surrounded by a band of other young families, the Crews added their efforts to establish a new faith community across town. When asked why she wanted to help start this new church, Mrs. Crews said, “It was exciting to pledge to be a part of something new!”
In the beginning, they worshipped in a park and then in a community polling place, but what they lacked in real estate, they more than made up for in faithfulness. Their community grew quickly both in numbers and energy. “We grew fast because we started from scratch in such a beautiful way,” Crews reminisced. She shared, “It was wonderful and enthusiastic in every way—we even shared janitor duty with joy! Nobody was discouraged because God was watching over us so diligently.”
That new faith community became Trinity United Methodist Church in Prattville, Alabama. The Crews and several other families became charter members with Mrs. Crews even serving as their first Chairperson of the Council on Ministries. Alabama West-Florida’s own Reverend Robin Wilson was born during the Crews’ time establishing this thriving new faith community. As Mrs. Crews looks back, she remembers how it was a “delightful story of what God can do.”
Now, over 50 years later, Mrs. Crews is once again a founding member of another new faith community. Following the vote to disaffiliate at First United Methodist Prattville, the Alabama West-Florida Annual Conference has planted a new church in Prattville with Reverend Chris McCain as their pastor and Rebecca Crews as one of its first members.
On their first Sunday, Rev. McCain reported 57 people gathered together in worship. “It’s a blessing to be able to allow people to be faithful to their United Methodist roots and beliefs,” Rev. McCain shared. We are “being reminded of our calling and baptismal vows,” he continued.
At every turn this new faith community is seeing signs of renewal and resurrection. Resources and people have arrived with abundance. Their community is made up of people from 1 to 87 years old. As Mrs. Crews reflected on her first Sunday in a new faith community she shared, “We knew God would be in it all along, and here we are. I’m still bubbling with joy at the response on Sunday.” Recounting their worship together, she was reminded how good it feels to say those words—“I’m so glad you’re here.”
Mrs. Crews is in good company in her new faith community. Alongside Mrs. Crews, the Huckabys and the Striepes are also a part of Prattville’s newest United Methodist Church. All three families were charter members of Trinity United Methodist Church who, together, bring over 150 years of church planting experience. These families were not afraid to step out in faith in 1970, and they certainly are not afraid to step out in faith now. “We are not afraid to be faithful,” Mrs. Crews beamed as she described her dedication to her new faith community.
While there is grief in this season of disaffiliations, what keeps Mrs. Crews and Rev. McCain going is the deep sense of togetherness and renewal that has filled their new faith community. “We are dedicated to one another,” Crews shared, “and that’s the best part about being part of something new.”
In this season filled with uncertainty, there are signs of new life all around the Alabama West-Florida Annual Conference. With Easter on the horizon, resurrection is all around us! We are living in real time the “delightful story of what God can do.”