Standing side by side, the two pastors placed morsels of bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, into the cupped hands of churchgoers. One after another, the people came — 390 in all. The pastors had hoped, dreamed and prayed for 200 to attend that service July 2, the first for The Church at Stone River. They thought 200, though, was wishful thinking.
The next weekend, 350 people wearing “Hello” stickers displaying their names gathered to worship at the church in Southwest Decatur.
No one expected those numbers, especially not after the emotional year that culminated with the closing of two local United Methodist churches on June 25 and the unique launching of The Church at Stone River on July 2.
“For all of us, this is a new family and a new home,” said the Rev. Ted Amey, lead pastor. “We are trying something entirely new and different. Together, we are establishing the mission of the church and learning what it will look like.”
The North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church tapped Amey and the Rev. Amy Howard to lead the new congregation.
“Many of the people who are coming to Stone River experienced some profound grief with the closing of their congregations and have mixed emotions. Leading up to the first Sunday, we prayed that everyone who attended would feel a renewed sense of purpose and hope and joy. That is still our prayer,” said Howard, the discipleship pastor.
The creation of The Church at Stone River was untraditional and experimental, veering from the typical way churches combine and new churches launch.
Instead of one church shuttering its doors, both churches, the 108-year-old Ninth Street United Methodist Church and the 30-year-old St. Luke United Methodist Church, voted to close and form a new congregation under a new name.
“The churches were the ones that started this amazing journey. They initiated it and District Superintendent Kelly Clem gave them the resources. She was the encourager and the visionary,” Amey said. “What happened on July 2 and July 9 and what will happen for years to come is because of the work done this past year.”
Plans for the congregation that would become known as The Church at Stone River: A United Methodist Community began last year when Ninth Street and St. Luke discussed joining.
Working with North Alabama United Methodist Bishop Debra…