On January 8, 2017, Monticello United Methodist Church celebrated the dedication of the large new addition to their church. Pastor Brian Beeks described the day as an Ebenezer moment for their congregation. (In the Old Testament there was a practice of raising a monument to mark a spot where God had moved in a mighty or powerful way.) Brian wrote, “As I look back on the history of our congregation, I believe there have been a few Ebenezer moments. I would define those moments as times when God led and inspired the congregation to take a step of faith and in turn they did just that. I believe the addition to the church is going to be strategic in helping us to be who God is calling us to be in our community. It is my prayer that in another 50 years the members of this church will look back and recognize how important the addition dedication in 2017 was to who the church has become.”
Ebenezer Moments …
Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the LORD has helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12, NLT)
The ministries to which God is now calling Monticello United Methodist Church, all began in 1833 as part of the circuit rider movement of the early Methodist church. Revivals were a vital part of the early church and Monticello experienced dynamic growth in those first years through several well attended revivals. They built the first church building in 1850 for $1,500 and with the rapid expansion had to build a new building in 1887 on the current site for the amazing sum of $8,735.22.
Fast forward to April 3, 1974. Much of the town was destroyed by an F4 tornado, part of the “Super Outbreak” of tornadoes over a 2 day period. It was the largest outbreak of tornadoes in US history. In a 24-hour period, 148 tornadoes touched down, killing over 300 people. The longest track of any of them was the Monticello tornado, which was on the ground for 109 miles through Indiana. Only by the grace of God, the church was spared in the 1974 tornado and helped Salvation Army serve over 7,500 meals in 3 weeks to those displaced by the devastation.
Present day, the church continues to make an impact on the community. They host Soup for the Soul dinners twice a month and serve over 200 meals each month. Their kitchen is an important part of their church’s ministry.
During the summer months, since 1977, the church has held worship services at the Lakeshore Drive-In Theater. It is described as a fun, non-conventional service, where people can drive in and attend worship service wearing their pajamas, if they wish! For audio, they simply tune in their car radios. If they want to “clap,” to give their approval – they honk their horns, of course!
Around 8 years ago, it became apparent that their congregation was growing and their needs were changing. Like many churches that are located in the “downtown” of a city, there begins the debate of whether to relocate or remain in the current location. After much discussion and prayer, it was decided they would continue to serve the city in their present location.
Over 4 years, the church began purchasing adjoining properties on their block as they were available. Things were falling into place and they felt that “God was on the move.” It was important for them to include greenspace and adequate parking. One dream was to open a childcare, and this happened in 2015. In 2016, construction began on the new addition. The vision for this new space was a designated worship space for a contemporary service, in addition to their traditional service that would be held in the current sanctuary. The new addition would also allow space for the growing youth in their church as well as a much needed larger kitchen.
There have been many Ebenezer moments in this church’s long and rich history, more than we had room for here. With their new addition, the congregation is looking forward to many more “Ebenezer moments.”