BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Two churches recently merged into the Beckley Community United Methodist Church, and are celebrating their first unified service.
St. Mary’s United Methodist Church and the First United Methodist Church recently made the decision to merge together and become one unified organization. Now after the merger, churchgoers gathered for the first service of the new congregation.
According to Rev. Betsy Evans Ingstrup, the churches decided to merge after seeing their individual congregations slowly losing members.
“The idea was that there is strength in numbers. So instead of having two churches that are dwindling in membership, we combined to have the strength of both congregations together,” Ingstrup said.
They’re doing their best to keep things safe during their services. Masks are required inside the church and different families separate where they can.
According to Rev. Dr. Joe Kenaston, the merger has been a long time coming and the church members are excited to see it finally happen.
“Each church had been working together and sharing a pastor. And they recognized they would be much stronger together and would be able to extend their vision, to extend the table of Christ into the community far more effectively together,” Kenaston.
A few dozen church members showed up for the first service of this new congregation. Their goal is to serve the community and bring people together. And to help kick off the new congregation in the right way, they’ve set up a food drive for the Pinehaven Homeless Shelter.
“Those that are struggling to make ends meet, wrestling with addiction, wrestling with loneliness and brokenness in their own life, they will find a home and a place here at Beckley Community United Methodist Church.”
The new congregation meets at the former First United Methodist Church building on South Heber Street in Beckley. Each congregation had more than 90% of its members in favor of the merger. They plan to use their combined numbers to better serve their community.