Columbiana UMC burns the mortgage

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

“Celebrate good times, Come On!” That was the call to worship that the praise team sang, at Columbiana UMC’s early service on Oct. 6.

And celebrate they did. It was mortgage-burning Sunday for the small-town Methodist church. The close-knit congregation had set a two-month goal, at the suggestion of long-time member Janice Gordon, to pay off their debt 19 months early, and they didn’t just reach it; they exceeded it.

During that first service Pastor Buster Timmons delivered a message about how God’s people have celebrated through the years and what a joy it was to celebrate as a church the freedom that being free of the mortgage would afford them.
Gordon said the two-month campaign to knock the debt out exceeded their expectations. Gifts to the church were given anonymously and reached far above the $140,000 they needed to pay the debt off 19 months early.

Timmons said the first week’s intake of $33,000 in gifts encouraged the congregation and set a snowball effect in motion that made the effort a great success.

He said although they have a stable membership of families that go way back with the church, they’ve also seen a lot of new growth in their membership over the last three to five years, and that it was good to see these different parts of the church truly coming together to accomplish something that will allow them to serve more effectively in their community.

“We not only paid the debt, but we saved $4,500 in interest by paying it early, and raised nearly $14,000 over our goal,” Gordon said. “We want to share the spirit of God’s message of salvation beyond the doors of our church doors and into the community, and this will help us do that.”

When asked, Pastor Timmons beamed as he told us that this event would afford the church the ability to finally hire a much needed full-time youth pastor for their church, as well as help them make some repairs to the historic steeple of the main building.
“I am excited that we are now going to be able to hire a full-time youth director,” volunteer Dana Naves said of the impact the youth have at her church. “Someone that can build relationships with our youth and help them grow in their faith.”
During the campaign, plans were already being made for the celebration that would inevitably follow the accomplishment.

This celebration came to fruition between the two morning services on Oct. 6.

Church family and visitors enjoyed a mortgage-burning party, complete with a spread of fire-themed snacks and refreshments, and a visit from one of the town’s fire engines for the church children to enjoy exploring.
Just before the second service, the people of Columbiana UMC gathered on the lawn of their church home as Timmons donned an authentic fireman’s hat and set the paid-off mortgage on fire.

As the church cheered, the mortgage quickly turned to ash, which will be saved for Ash Wednesday services in the spring.
For more information about visiting Columbiana UMC, go to Columbianaumc.com.