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Amid members leaving, church wants to revive

STARKEY—A small church congregation has become even smaller.
During many Sundays in May of this year, around six to nine people regularly attended the service at Starkey United Methodist Church. As of last week, that number is down to two, according to congregation member Mary Jane Lawrence.
Fellow congregation member Julia Jessup said in late May, a church meeting was called which the Rev. Richard Barton, superintendent of the Finger Lakes District of the United Methodist Church, attended. He announced that the church would get a new pastor, because decreasing membership was a concern.
Jessup said it was after this meeting that several congregation members decided to leave the church. Jessup explained the way in which Pastor Karen Davenport was let go was her reason for leaving.
“We knew a new pastor was appointed. It was never a question of not having a pastor,” said Jessup. She added, “How that change was handled and presented really, for myself, is much of the issue and the crux of the problem.”
She added that over the years the congregation had asked the district for help because of low attendance. Lawrence explained the church had been struggling to keep members for years. She added nobody was to blame for that, with youth not returning to the area and members passing away. Jessup said with so few members, the congregation has a hard time paying the pastor and bills.
“Is it only visible when it comes to money?” said Jessup, about the district stepping in to appoint a new pastor.
Lawrence is also one of the two congregation members staying. She said that last week she made the decision to keep attending Starkey, but did not see how the church could function, and pay a pastor, with just two people. Lawrence added she too did not like the way Davenport was relieved.
Barton said it is a person’s choice whether or not to attend church, and regardless of people leaving the Starkey congregation, the district is not closing the church. A new pastor was appointed: the Rev. Marilyn Wood, current pastor for both the Dundee and Dresden United Methodist Churches. Barton said starting July 1, Wood would also serve the Starkey church.
Davenport was at the Starkey church for two years. Lawrence said normally, each Methodist pastor knows each year at their church may be the last.
Barton explained that the appointment process includes the bishop and cabinet looking at the needs of a congregation. He said for Starkey the need was for someone to get more people to come to church. He described this process in a letter to the editor in the June 23 issue of The Observer. It was in response to Jessup’s letter to the editor about church members leaving in the June 9 issue.
Wood, the new pastor, said her goal is to have a Saturday evening service for Starkey, to accommodate people who can’t make it to church Sunday morning. She said that the first early evening service will be Saturday, July 3, tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Wood added the Starkey services would now be more informal.
 



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