Minister takes steps to reinvigorate church
The pastor's first priority was to get to know his new congregation.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rev. Gary Marcy said he believes "God's calling" drew him to Faith Community Church and the Mahoning Valley.
"I was at The Abbey in Huntingdon, Pa., and had been pastor there 15 years," the Rev. Mr. Marcy said. "I thought I would retire from there."
But, he said, God had other plans in store for him. The change in his life came about by accident.
"Every five years, we're supposed to update our profiles," he explained, and information on available ministers is posted for churches looking to fill that position.
"Mine was posted by accident ... I got a phone call while I was out walking our dog, Mandy," he said. "The search committee told me they had seen my profile, liked what they saw and wanted to meet."
Though Mr. Marcy said he was happy at his current post, the conversation piqued his interest and a visit was planned. "It just fell together," he said. Mr. Marcy has been at the church since August 2004.
Faith Community, 1919 E. Midlothian Blvd., was established six years ago when two former Youngstown churches, Pilgrim Collegiate and Bethlehem United Church of Christ, merged and selected a new name. It's at the corner of Sheridan Road and Midlothian Boulevard.
When Mr. Marcy came on board as pastor, the church hadn't had a full-time minister for five years.
Parts of his plan
Mr. Marcy said getting to know the congregation was phase one in his plan. Phase two is blending the traditional and contemporary into a service and working on attracting young families.
"They knew I had experience in renewing and reinvigorating a church," said Mr. Marcy. "I understood what the church was trying to do ... new things and new ideas."
Mr. Marcy has devoted time to meeting with church members in cluster groups or 12 or so people. "It helps gauge what people like and dislike in the church," he said. "There are about 300 members and interest is there."
One project that has already experienced success is the rotation Sunday school for children in kindergarten through third grades and fourth through sixth grades. Sites are: storytelling, Weavers of Faith; computers, Faith at Your Fingertips.God; cooking, Food for Faith; theater, Faith-Booster Videos; drama, Faith of Ages Stages; and art, Faith Creation Station.
"We're lucky to have teachers involved in storytelling. They're very creative and have ownership in what they're doing. They come up with great ideas."
"We went through the Ten Commandments and told the stories in five different ways at the various stations," he said. It's one way to bring Scripture to life for young people.
Puppetry also is a part of theater. Two groups of children, kindergarten through third grade, and fourth grade and older, participate. "We got some ideas from what other churches did and used our own concepts," Mr. Marcy said.
This summer, vacation Bible school will take on a new look. Previously, the church had participated with other churches in this annual summer event. This year, Faith Community plans a solo venture. "We want a 'wow' response for what we're planning," he said.
Involvement is the key as far as Mr. Marcy is concerned. The church already serves Brownlee Woods Seniors, who meet at 10 a.m. Tuesdays for crafts and cards. Participants don't have to be church members to be involved. "In May or June we plan to have a 'get-to-know-your-neighbor afternoon.' We'll be the sponsor ... it will be a chance for people to mix and talk."
Mr. Marcy said he's also proposing the idea of Christmas village that will be set up in the church parking lot. "It will have a nativity, carolers ... a mix of things," he said. "We found a nativity painting on canvas ... that was done during World War II ... in the church attic. You have to see it to believe it," Mr. Marcy said. "It's remarkable and we plan to resurrect it."
Last year, the church held a Lenten Fair and another is planned this year. "It's pertinent to families," he said of the events, which include learning about religious symbols, decorating eggs, contributing to a mural and making crosses. The engaging activities are both a learning experience and fun. "It takes about 30 people to pull it together," he said.
Mr. Marcy also commended the church in its benevolence work and outreach. "Donations are from $40,000 to $50,000 annually," he said. The church food bank helps 120-130 people a month.
About his ministry
As for his ministry, Mr. Marcy said he "deals with life issues" and a "Christ-centered theology. He's a graduate of Bryant College in New York and earned a master's degree at Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, Pa.
"It comes into play on Sunday morning ... there's an outline of the sermon and people can follow along ... and fill in some blanks and take notes," he said.
Mr. Marcy said that Faith Community is moving toward counting itself among the Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the United Church of Christ. The UCC is embroiled in a conflict concerning the direction taken by denomination's leadership.
According to information published by Faith and Welcoming Churches, delegates at the General Synod 25 of UCC declared their independence from the teachings of Jesus, the authority of the Bible and historic Christian faith by affirming marriage equality for same-sex couples. Each church is autonomous.
"I'm not interested in building a megachurch, but I have dreams and ideas for the church. It can't be done all at once ... we'll take it in steps," Mr. Marcy said. "Rebuilding is a challenge. This is a strong, supportive congregation."
On a personal note, Mr. Marcy said his wife, Sharyle, a professional artist, is a "partner in his ministry" because of her help in church activities and artistic input. They will mark their 45th wedding anniversary Nov. 11. Their children are: daughter and son-in-law Christine and Chuck Kimmet of Yorba Linda, Calif., who have two daughters; son and daughter-in-law Shawn and Alice Marcy of Norwalk, who also have two daughters; and daughter Sherry Marcy of Toledo.
The Marcys live in Coitsville but are building a home in Austintown. Their dog, Mandy, died; now a 6-month-old puppy, Louie, another Golden retriever, has won a place in the Marcy home.