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Seabold United Methodist celebrates 100 years

Seabold United Methodist Church celebrates its centennial this weekend. Bishop Grant Hagiya will preach at the 10:30 a.m. service Sunday. A Crucifer’s Cross will be placed on the altar Sunday in honor of longtime church member Ron Westall who died last year.  - Connie Mears/Staff Photo
Seabold United Methodist Church celebrates its centennial this weekend. Bishop Grant Hagiya will preach at the 10:30 a.m. service Sunday. A Crucifer’s Cross will be placed on the altar Sunday in honor of longtime church member Ron Westall who died last year.
— image credit: Connie Mears/Staff Photo

In 1908 a group of women on Bainbridge Island called Ladies’ Aid gathered together in the schoolhouse (now Seabold Hall) to talk about creating a community church.

It took two years of fundraising – donations ranging from 25 cents to $9, plus gathering materials: lumber, nails, windows salvaged from a Seattle church – before the church was built.

A mere 100 years later, and women are still a dynamic force in the growth of what is now the United Methodist Church.

Two years ago, the church was assigned its first female pastor. Cheryl Wuensch turned from studying law at Yale to focus on the seminary. From there, she taught New Testament at Princeton, but she felt the academic world was “too detached from the real stuff of life. Less than .0001 percent of the population would even understand what I was publishing – and really, did it make a difference in their lives?”

Making a difference in the lives of church members is of utmost importance to Wuensch these days.

“As a woman, I’m naturally more relational than men,” she said of her personal approach to connecting with church members.

When a new family attends a service, Wuensch generally reaches out to the woman, inviting her to lunch to “get to know her better.”

“I’m able to make personal connections with women and I’ve never once been turned down,” she said.

Recently she compiled a list of women her age who might be interested in “soul feeding,” or joining a spiritually focused group of women to talk and support each other. She easily came up with a list of 40 women.

“Mothers, in particular,” she said, “are pulled in so many different directions.”

Her personal approach is effective, attracting 53 new members in two years. Now topping 180 members, the church is enjoying its sudden growth spurt.

“I was just talking to my mother about this,” Wuensch said Tuesday in her office. “We have reached a certain momentum; it’s reached critical mass and it’s snowballing.”

Perhaps because Wuensch is not only the church’s first female pastor, but it’s youngest ever, many of the new members are young families.

“We had 13 new members Oct. 3 and all but one of them is under 40,” she said.

Many are drawn by the active Sunday School program and youth groups.

Briana Woodside, another dynamic female – leads the youth group.

“She’s just phenomenal,” Wuensch said. “She has a great sense of intuition, and the group is not clique-y at all.”

And are the young male members put off by a strong female leader? Apparently not. In fact, some young men in the youth group are thought to be attracted by more than Woodside’s inner beauty. As one church elder put it – “Well, you’ll just have a youth group with a lot of boys in it.”

The congregation will gather Friday night to celebrate the church’s 100 year milestone with a catered dinner. Longtime members will tell stories from the past.

On Sunday, Seabold United Methodist will host Bishop Grant Hagiya from the Cal-Pac Conference, who will preach at the 10:30 a.m. service.

A complete history of the church can found at http://seaboldumc.org/

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Centennial Sunday

United Methodist Bishop Grant Hagiya will preach at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Seabold United Methodist Church in celebration of the church’s 100th anniversary. For more information, visit http://seaboldumc.org

By CONNIE MEARS

Staff Writer

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