Rev. Karen Gibson: Where He leads me I will follow

— This weekend, there will be a special worship service at Friendship United Methodist Church, 657 Green St.

Anyone who would like to join us is welcome to attend. The service begins at 10:30 a.m. During a portion of the service we will observe what is called "An Order for the Leave-Taking of a Church Building."

This service is commonly used when a church body has built a new facility, or is closing its doors forever, or in Friendship United Methodist's case, is moving to another location.

About 18 or 19 years ago, there was another Leave-Taking when Friendship UMC had to leave its building at 830 Wesley Drive, because of structural damage and lack of funds to make the necessary improvements.

And so a mutual friendship was struck between the congregations of St. Marks Episcopal Church and Friendship United Methodist Church.

About 2 1/2 years later, my husband, the Rev. Phillip R. Gibson Jr., was appointed as Friendship's pastor. My understanding of Friendship UMC's history before 1992 is limited.

However, I can recall 16 years of sharing the St. Marks Episcopal building. One special memory was of Fr. John Frary, a very friendly, generous, hard-working, faithful man, who brought formality and tradition with him. Friendship UMC was very fortunate to have a man such as Fr. Frary from whom to learn.

In a way, we were still learning how to be a church in our new surroundings.

Through the years there have been many changes of priests and pastors for St. Marks. One change was the addition of the beautiful fellowship hall called Witte Hall. Another was when The Lutheran Church of Grace became yoked with St. Marks Episcopal. The Rev. Beth Purdum came to be the pastor of Lutheran Church of Grace and St. Marks Episcopal Church.

Friendship UMC has been privileged to be in the midst of all that goes on at St. Marks Episcopal.

There have been seasonal ecumenical services during which the three churches shared together with the Congregational Church. There have been opportunities to meet two Episcopal bishops and one ELCA bishop.

The celebration of the installation of their Celtic Cross was especially meaningful. Through it all we were made aware of God's presence in our lives as we shared our lives with the Episcopalians and Evangelical Lutherans.

Rosie Crosthwaite, director of St. Marks preschool, also helped shape us. We met each week for Sunday School in the same area of the basement that she uses for her preschool. Miss Rosie was, and is, very generous to our church.

After 18 years, just as a child grows up and leaves home, I guess that is what Friendship United Methodist Church will be doing, leaving home at St. Marks.

We believe God is leading us in a new direction just over a few blocks to 700 Barclay St. to where the Seventh-Day Adventists worship.

It will be an opportunity for us to grow up some more to learn more while continuing to show and offer a God of love and compassion in our community and outlying areas, while striving to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

St. Marks Episcopal Church, The Lutheran Church of Grace, and their present pastor, the Rev. Jim Strader, have nurtured Friendship UMC through their friendship, graciousness and generosity, not only now but also throughout our 18 years together.

We will be eternally grateful. We will continue to recount our memories of God's blessings to us in this place to our children and grandchildren.

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