Executive Presbyter and Stated Clerk Greg Goodwiller shares that one of his congregations is experiencing new life and a hopeful future, for which he gives thanks to God.
Ripley, Mississippi, county seat of Tippah County in north Mississippi has a population that has been slowly declining for some time. Following a church split in 2014, Ripley Presbyterian Church, with fewer than 100 members, has struggled to find its way, and wondered if it could keep its doors open. And this year, another of the county’s five historic Presbyterian congregations closed its doors, leaving just RPC and two others.
At the same time, recent turmoil in the United Methodist Church has resulted in First Methodist Church in Ripley’s decision to leave the denomination, resulting in the departure of some of its members.
In the midst of these challenges, turmoil, and signs of decline, the Rev. Dr. Jody Hill, minister member of the Presbytery of St. Andrew and President of Memphis Theological Seminary, who serves the Ripley Presbyterian Church as Supply Pastor, at a meeting of the session when they thought they were possibly in their last years, challenged the session to look outward and focus on mission rather than survival.
In the last year, Ripley Presbyterian Church has become the new church home for more than thirty individuals, a membership increase of over 40%! Rev. Hill attributes the growth not to simply being in the right place at the right time, but to the church’s focus on mission, and reflecting on what its members have to give, rather than what they have lost, noting that in the Biblical story of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus took the five loaves and two fish that that his disciples were able to offer, and transformed them into an abundant feast.
It should be noted that with its shift of focus, since 2019 this little congregation has given over $100,000 in mission giving to the PC(USA) and other mission causes, and its future is now hopeful and bright.
To God be the glory!