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Review No. 1:
I started attending the Florence United Methodist Church about six years ago. I sit on the right side, fourth row from the front, with my wife of 59 years. At one time or another I have been a staunch member of the Church of Christ, the Independent Christian Church, the Assembly of God, and the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Two of the congregations have been mega churches (four and five services per weekend), so I have seen my share of building programs and fund raising. Let me share my observations of this congregation.
The congregation has an attendance of about 40, more on Easter and Christmas Eve. The average age is at least 65. No active member has children high school age and younger that live at home and attend church regularly, although several members have grandchildren that attend from time to time. The pastor is retired Methodist clergy that lives in Pueblo and fills the pulpit three times a month. The building is a modern brick structure with no steps and easy handicapped access. It could easily accomodate an average attendance of 75, but would probably start to feel cramped with an attendance of 100. It shares a parking lot with the Big D grocery store, at the east end of town on the main highway. This allows for convenient grocery shopping after church.
The pianist is the matriarch of a five generation clan with one female of each generation named Wyquita. She can play every song in the hymnal and play it well! The song leader is quite good and also plays a mean trumpet. The person on the volume control is not some teenager with damaged hearing from loud concerts. I have been in more than one church where my ears hurt until Wednesday after a Sunday worship. I can tolerate considerable variety in worship style, but if my ears hurt this Sunday, I am somewhere else next Sunday. So the music is attractive to me.
The future for most congregations of this size and age is rather bleak. Like the Preacher said, "There is a time to be born, and a time to die." At some point, attendance dwindles to the point that the building is sold and the remaining members go elsewhere. My home church in a small farm town in eastern Kansas, where six generations of my clan have warmed the pews, is in the last stages of decline. My nephew could well be the one to turn off the lights and dispose of the assets of that congregation. However, that is not the feeling I get for the Florence church.
The town is located in what many consider the 'banana belt' of Colorado, with a relatively mild, high desert climate. It is also a tourist destination, with the Royal Gorge just a few miles up the Arkansas River valley. People retire here from northern states. Some will summer here and winter even further south, in Texas or Arizona. There is thus a steady flow of retirees that might appreciate what this congregation has to offer.
My observation is that the members really care for one another. I do not notice factions like I have seen elsewhere. They keep in touch when someone is out of town. They pray for the sick by name every Sunday, both members of the congregation and people they know. They bury their dead with honor and dignity.
There is no debt and no building program. The congregation takes care of the basic needs without any necessity for sermons threatening imminent financial disaster if people do not dig a little deeper. They would like to have a congregation like they remember from half a century ago, with lots of young families, but seem to have accepted the fact that this is an 'Empty Nester' congregation.
There is a covered dish dinner each quarter. The group has plenty of really good cooks, so there is plenty of good food to eat. The men host a Valentines Banquet and program in mid February and a picnic in the city park in August, both nicely done and well attended.
It seems to me that God is inviting people of a 'certain age' to attend services and participate in other activities with this group, and that this congregation will continue to thrive for a good many years. If you have been disillusioned by building programs, fund raising, loud music, and being ignored because of your age, this just might be the right spot for you!