The walls have been re-painted from peach to green. There’s a new sound and lighting system, video screens and production booth, and theater seats will be added. Postcards have been mailed out. Worshippers will be greeted by light refreshments and music by a local band, Barefoot Soul.
After a year’s hiatus, Wynnton United Methodist Church is taking another run at a regular contemporary service — this time with more intentionality and study and planning.
“For one thing, now we have a home. For awhile we moved around from the children’s center to the youth center,” said Kimm Geise, a Wynnton member who’s overseeing the new service. “The Link” kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 10 in what will be its regular home: the fellowship hall, with seating capacity around 600 people.
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Geise and her family moved to Columbus in 2001, settled on Wynnton as their home church but were relocated by the Army within a year. Her husband John is a physician’s assistant with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Division. In 2008, they came back to town. John is currently deployed. The couple have two sons.
Wynnton started its first contemporary service in 2001, but leaders decided to stop it last year in order to re-think the service.
Kimm Geise was one who helped start the first service in ‘01 and was pleased when her family came back to town seven years later, so she could reconnect with her old church.
“We’re using the model of the Purpose-Driven church,” Geise said of materials that originated with the Rev. Rick Warren of California. “And we’re letting God lead instead of us. We’ve been praying for this since the last one stopped.”
As might be suspected with the use of a band and high-tech equipment, there’s no specific age group — such as teen-agers — that Wynnton is trying to reach.
“We’re focusing on people who are unchurched, or who might be disconnected from a church,” she said.
Not just about youth
Wynnton, with about 1,400 members, has two other services: at 8:30 a.m. and 10:55 a.m. They’re held in the main sanctuary.
The Rev. Mike Ricker of Wynnton was successful at his former church in Baxley, Ga., at adding such a service into an already established congregation. At that church, the 11 o’clock service changed to a contemporary format.
“It did fantastic and the church grew and thrived,” said Ricker, who was there nine years.
“We’ve been very intentional about defining the target,” he added. “We’re looking at it more broadly than a certain age group.”
At first, “the Link” will be held monthly. Ricker and his associate pastor, the Rev. Matt Avera, will rotate in preaching duties for it but will both be present.
As in other parts of the country, many Columbus-area congregations have done what Wynnton is doing. Some have succeeded and some have not. Some new churches start out with such a format — with live music and screens containing words to songs — and never stray from it.
The term “contemporary worship” generally refers to a form of Christian worship that emerged within Western evangelical Protestantism toward the end of the 20th century. It was originally confined to the charismatic movement, but is now found in a wide range of churches, including many — like Wynnton — that do not subscribe to a charismatic theology. Contemporary worship is generally characterized by the use of contemporary worship music in an informal setting. Where contemporary worship is practiced in churches with a liturgical tradition, elements of the liturgy are frequently kept to a minimum.
Liturgy to remain intact
Geise said the United Methodist liturgy will remain intact in the new service.
Specific to Columbus, churches are aware that the Base Re-Alignment and Closure (BRAC) will add about 30,000 people to the area; and Wynnton, like others, is being intentional about preparing for the influx.
“BRAC is a big focus,” said Ricker. “We’re trying to create a welcoming space for military families. We’re already experiencing some influx from that.” The contemporary service is not the only way Wynnton seeks to reach out, but it’s a natural way, Ricker and Geise said. Ricker and his wife have a background in United Methodist missions, notably in India.
“My heart is about reaching people who are not part of a fellowship or church,” he said. “It’s not about just adding a service with different kind of music — but a way to speak to people where they are.”
Contact Allison Kennedy at 706-576-6237.