Updated information on re-opening the church and much more. Transcript below.

Hello there! I’m Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church and this is my brief but spectacular 2nd episode of “From the Pastor’s Heart!”

I’m just teasing about that “brief but spectacular” part, but thank you for taking the time to watch. As I said in worship this morning, the following announcements are more involved than I felt I could fairly cover during worship service.

On Re-opening the Church

First, I’m genuinely pleased to announce that the plans to re-open our building for in-person outdoor and indoor worship have both been approved.

Opening under COVID-19 safety protocols requires purchasing specific supplies and equipment. As I mentioned last week, I decided to hold off on outdoor worship as … in addition to the routine anti-viral supplies we will need, it would require buying a special, portable sound system for use outside, something we simply do not have the funds to do at this time, and I had it on good authority that the Conference as a whole would possibly be allowed to open for indoor worship soon. The official announcement regarding indoor worship came just over a week ago.

My original intent was to re-open our building on October 11, however that date may be a tad optimistic. The protocols and our plan require a thorough cleaning of those portions of the building we will be allowed to use (the sanctuary and the narthex), marking off the entry, seating, and parking to ensure social distancing, creating relevant signage, and gathering up certain supplies.

All of you need to be informed of what the COVID-19 protocols for attending worship at our church are, and I’ll be creating a video about it as well as posting the information to our website and sending out a letter to known members through regular mail close to an actual re-opening date.

Meanwhile, I need to find out how many of you are both ready and willing to commit to returning to in-person worship to make sure I have adequate personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies on hand.

And, as we’re essentially building a new congregation at Union Grove, I would like to get feedback from those of you planning to attend in-person regarding what time you would like worship to start.

Leadership & Volunteering

In the past, many of the tasks I’ve mentioned would have been taken on by members of various committees, but because we’re in the process of building a new congregation here, we have yet to form any committees.

As I’ve said before, the church is not our buildings. We are the church, and the building is simply a place where we gather together for activities such as worship, fellowship, bible studies, and other groups. However, planning, organizing, carrying out those activities, and managing the property don’t happen without you who are the church.

It’s also how the earliest church operated. In their case, the administrative council was made up of the Apostles.

I should make it clear that, as the pastor and according to UMC policies, there is only so much that I am authorized to do. Further, there is only so much that I can physically do on my own. Like many of you and while I wish it wasn’t necessary, I work fulltime in the private sector in addition to being pastor at Union Grove, and I have a home and family, so I understand that finding time for yet another responsibility can be tricky.

In this case, though, it’s of vital importance. Union Grove’s future rests in your hands. If it is to continue, leadership positions for the church need to be filled beginning with an administrative council.

I am asking you, whether you are a current member who had stopped attending or you’re someone who will be new to Union Grove, to contact me and let’s talk about the needs of the church as well as what you need from the church. It’s a first step in building the kind of beloved community that Jesus started over 2,000 years ago.

Purpose of the Church

The primary purpose of any church is, of course, the Great Commission … the task of making disciples and it is a task I take very seriously. While “build it and they will come” is a great theory in the movies, it’s not how evangelism works.

It’s my intention to lead the church at Union Grove to be more engaged and active in the community and to make Union Grove more accessible and of greater service to the community.  

Two things that could be done fairly easily would be to build a blessing box and a free tiny library located on church property.  Another possible service would be to make better use of the fellowship hall by working with local community groups that need meeting space.

These are small things relatively speaking, but they can start us on a path of reaching further and further out into the community around the church to both find and meet its needs, and to meet and make disciples.

I want to assure you that I intend for Union Grove to be and do more than meet once a week for worship and once a month to share a meal.

We are called to be His hands and feet, and that is my goal for this church.


Lastly, and this is my least favorite task, we need to talk about stewardship.

It hasn’t been hard to get out of the habit of making our formerly regular offerings to the churches or maintaining the tithes we used to pay. They didn’t immediately come to mind when the first panic over COVID-19 hit and no one really anticipated that it would be months before the buildings could re-open. For many of us, simply managing to keep ahead of our own bills was a struggle, and I understand that.  

However, just like you, Union Grove has had monthly obligations that we’ve had to meet … essential services like utilities, insurance, and property tax bills that we’ve had to pay every month, and that has significantly depleted our cash reserves.

Moving forward, our grounds still need to be regularly maintained, and the supplies we need to have on hand until we are completely free from having to operate under COVID-19 safety protocols have to be purchased.

If you are financially able, please consider returning to the habit of making regular offerings or tithes to the church once again. Until we have a treasurer appointed, our funds are being managed and distributed by the Smoky Mountain District office. Your offerings can be mailed directly to the office at PO Box 905, Alcoa, TN 37701. Checks should be made payable to Smoky Mountain District, and you should write Union Grove Friendsville on the memo line.  For those of you who are comfortable paying bills or shopping online, you can now make your offering online through a secure link provided by Holston Conference.  Just visit holston.org/churchoffering, fill out the form, and when asked, choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC BLOUNT.

These links are available near the bottom of each of our message web pages, in the weekly worship email for those of you on the newsletter list, and will be included in the web post for this video as well.

Thank you!

Thank you, all, who have listened to this message. I pray God bless you and keep you, make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, and give you peace. Have a blessed week.