Eureka Springs Methodist Church seems to be experiencing a revival

Wednesday, November 5, 2003
Rev. Joe Sherman

A revival in the traditional sense of the word seems to be happening at First United Methodist Church of Eureka Springs.

Perhaps it's because of its location, having been in the present sanctuary on Highway 23 South for two years now. Or, it could be the crop of new faces that have shown up in recent months. Maybe it's due to a fired-up music director. Then again, maybe a new pastor has something to do with it.

Whatever the reason, church members are enthused.

"There is a 'new church' in town, so to speak," said member Dave Jacobson. "The congregation is positively indescribable ---- friendly, caring, reaching out, involved."

Throw out the Methodist stereotype. Persons attend church dressed in everything from blue jeans to suits, Jacobson said. "No one judges what one wears, what their ethnicity is, what they do or how they live their life. Everyone just cares about you as a person."

The pastor, Rev. Joe Sherman, who came to the pulpit in Eureka Springs on June 29, thinks the excitement may have something to do with the United Methodist Church's national campaign, dubbed "Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds."

"That says it all," Sherman said.

Marie Sathrum is one of the "new faces" described by Jacobson. Holding advanced music degrees in both vocal and piano, she can also make the organ sing, Jacobson said.

Jacobson said her work has resulted in growth of a choir that 'resounds with enthusiasm. You would think there were twice as many voices as there are members while listening to their moving music."

In fact, he said, while Sathrum asks that the congregation withhold applause after the choir sings, she has not met with much success.

The church recently acquired a 52-inch Baldwin Concert Upright piano, purchased through donations. Sathrum said the Model 6000 provides as much total soundboard area as Baldwin's 7-foot grand piano.

The piano will be dedicated in a 3 p.m. service on Nov. 16.

Music is an area some Methodist churches are not particularly strong in, Sherman said, but in Eureka Springs that is certainly not the case.

In many denominations in recent decades, congregational singing has shifted to choruses, with lyrics projected on a screen or wall. While the choruses seem to be popular, there are many who miss the traditional hymns, and feel there is a tendency of choruses to be popular for a while, then never sung again.

Sherman says that at Eureka Springs UMC there are both choruses and hymns, but there is more emphasis on the traditional music. However, special performances may feature non-traditional instruments, such as dulcimers and banjos.

That range of music reflects the Methodist tradition of inclusiveness. "I feel we are the true American church. We were there for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We try to serve all kinds of cultures and backgrounds."

Sherman said he has never been a administrative preacher. "I'm a people person. I like to go to the coffee show and feel the pulse of the community." He finds that pulse at Main Street Cafe, where the "good ol' boys" can be found, and Mud Street Cafe, a popular hangout for Eureka's artistic community.

"I'm a flexible personality ---- non-judgmental. I get along with all kinds of cultures and backgrounds," he said, preferring to leave doctrine with the theologians

He looks forward to the Home for Christmas campaign, a national program in December focusing on reaching inactive church members and the unchurched.

Eureka Springs UMC is also reinstituting its youth program, which has lagged somewhat in recent years. Sherman hopes to develop a type of big brother/big sister program in which younger children will fellowship with older youth at least one day a week.

All that is pretty exciting for a denomination that is not known for being particularly evangelical.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: