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Rekindling the spiritual fire

Unicoi United Methodist Church is looking toward the future.
This weekend, the church will host a special event coordinators believe will be of great benefit to its members and surrounding community.
The pastor of Unicoi UMC, the Rev. Todd Kingrea, said the Lay Witness Mission weekend is an experience designed to give laypersons the opportunity to speak to other laypersons about “the reality of Christ in their daily lives.”
As part of the weekend, a team of laypersons come to the host church to lead the weekend’s activities. Kingrea said this team is made up of “ordinary people who have encountered the risen Christ.”
Lay Witness Mission is open to any individuals who would like to participate – being a United Methodist or a church member is not a requirement.
“You don’t have to be a United Methodist,” Kingrea said. “You can be involved in a church somewhere else or you can be unattached to a church. It’s open to anyone who wants to come and participate.”
Kingrea said the weekend is designed to offer a spiritual spark to attendees by focusing on each participant’s relationship with Jesus Christ, both in small group meetings and congregational gatherings.
“We believe it will strengthen and renew people’s faith and give them more confidence in talking about their faith with other people,” Kingrea said. “That seems to be one of the things we don’t do well and don’t do a lot of is talking about what’s going on in our faith journeys. It is a way of getting people to talk about their faith more effectively.”
The Lay Witness Mission at Unicoi UMC will begin the evening of Friday, Nov. 4, with a covered-dish supper in the church’s New Life Center. Following the dinner, a congregational gathering will be held; the congregation will then break into small groups for separate meetings.
Small groups are important to the life of the church, Kingrea said.
“We see small groups in action in the book of Acts,” Kingrea said. “We know that for the first several hundred years of the church’s existence it met in small groups in people’s homes.
“The churches around the world that are growing the most today are the ones that have successful group ministries.”
Kingrea said the focus of a small group is helping participants grow as disciples, not just education, although that is an important part. Small groups “put that education into practice,” he added. Small groups incorporate worship, evangelism, discipleship and missions.
“(Small groups) pray together, they study the scriptures together, they worship together, they serve their community in some way together, they reach out and evangelize together,” Kingrea said. “All the main purposes of the church are accomplished in those small group settings. They provide an incredibly strong core for any church that uses them.”
Small group activities will continue the morning of Saturday, Nov. 5, with coffee group meetings held in the homes of Unicoi UMC church members. After the coffee groups, a fellowship lunch will be held at the church. Saturday evening, another fellowship dinner will be held, followed by another congregational session and additional small group meetings.
The Lay Witness Mission will continue Sunday morning as team members lead Sunday school at 10 a.m. and a worship service at 11 a.m. After the worship service, participants and team members will have a fellowship lunch before the team members depart.
“Then Sunday evening we will have a celebration service where we will talk about the weekend, what we experienced, what it meant and discuss where we go from here,” Kingrea said.
Kingrea’s previous experiences with a Lay Witness Mission were as a team member.
He and his wife, Felicia, served as team members for four Lay Witness Mission weekends. These experiences, he said, demonstrated how a Lay Witness Mission can change the lives of individual church members and churches as a whole.
“We saw people’s lives transformed,” Kingrea said. “People opened up in ways that maybe they hadn’t before. We saw people drawing closer through the experience of the weekend.
“The weekend became a catalyst for the church to launch a small group ministry or take another step in an existing ministry. We saw it strengthen churches. It really rekindled the spiritual fire the church or individuals had at one time.”
During his previous experiences, Kingrea said he saw church members who had been worshipping together for many years draw closer to each other.
“We go to church with people and we know their favorite restaurants, their favorite sports teams, but we often don’t know a lot about their spiritual journey because we don’t tend to talk about that much,” Kingrea said. “The Lay Witness Mission is designed to help people ease into being about to talk about that more effectively.”
Rekindling the spiritual fire is a priority for the United Methodist denomination as a whole, Kingrea said.
“The general United Methodist Church is asking all the local churches to engage in the Call to Action, which is a process and an initiative to focus more on winning the lost and making disciples and getting away from administrative bureaucracy and committee gridlock,” Kingrea said. “(The Call to Action) is an effort to move away from that and get the church focused back on what it really needs to be doing.”
Hosting a Lay Witness Mission is one of the goals Unicoi UMC recently set as part of a plan to meet the requirements of the Call to Action and work toward a new future, Kingrea said. The church also hopes the weekend will be the catalyst for the beginnings of a small group ministry.
“We believe it will help us to launch some small groups in our church that can be an ongoing aspect of our community and can impact the greater community of which we are a part,” Kingrea said. “We hope it’s going to be that spark to get more folks involved and be able to multiply our outreach and mission efforts.”
For additional information about the Lay Witness Mission, visit www.unicoiumc.org, or call the church office at 743-9261. Unicoi UMC is at 702 Virginia St. in Unicoi, and offers a contemporary worship service at 9 a.m. and a traditional worship service at 11 a.m. each Sunday.