When the Ebensburg United Methodist Church celebrated 175 years of ministry in June 2018, one of the most celebrated highlights was that the current average worship attendance is currently at an all-time high! That one fact alone announces that this congregation is doing vital and important ministry in the name of Jesus Christ!
In addition to increased worship attendance, there has been a significant increase in recent years in the annual number of baptisms and professions of faith. Over the last several years, the number of baptisms has doubled -- in 2017 alone, there were 29 baptisms! In the past five years, 144 persons have joined the church, many on profession of faith, increasing the church membership by nearly 25 percent.
There is also a growing number of men and women who are responding to a call to ministry as an Elder, Deacon, or Local Pastor. In the last several years, six persons have become Certified Candidates for Ministry; and several more are in the discernment phase of answering a call! A strong contingent of Lay Servants supports the growing needs of ministry in this exciting place.
The church's ministry efforts were affirmed on Sunday, October 7, 2018 when Rev. J.R. Virgin, the pastor, and other leaders were presented with UMC Discipleship Ministries' One Matters Award by the Rev. Chris Kindle, WPAUMC Director of Discipleship. The One Matters Award seeks “to lift up the importance of discipleship and help interpret across the connection what zeros in professions of faith and baptism mean and what moving away from the zeros means.” The award includes $1,000 for new and/or ongoing discipleship ministries and a One Matters Discipleship Award plaque.
The simple formula for growth in the Ebensburg ministry is that disciples are being formed through a healthy balance of worship, mission and discipleship training.
The 6:34 Saturday evening worship service (Psalm 63:4) provides contemporary worship featuring Illuminate the Way, the church praise band. There are two worship experiences on Sunday morning that offer a welcoming, blended worship style.
In the past two years, three small membership churches have been “adopted” by the Ebensburg U.M. Church. The pastoral team leads worship, provides pastoral care, and oversees the administrative work of those churches, all done with the hope of infusing positive DNA into the small churches. As well, the Ebensburg church has hosted a satellite worship experience at nearby St. Francis University, connecting with students and encouraging their faith growth.
The pastoral team uses shared sermon series so that all sites in the “network” are hearing the same faith message every week. The sermon series are intentionally designed to invite people to become followers of Jesus and to grow in their discipleship commitment.
For years, the Ebensburg U.M. Church has sponsored an annual Mission Trip to locations through the United States. The 2018 Mission Trip included 26 participants, the highest number ever. The church has also become active in Disaster Relief efforts, conducting both ERT and VIM work in the Conference. Because of a strong commitment to mission, the church purchased and equipped a mission trailer to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to needs in the community and beyond.
A unique mission of the church is the Doe Valley Off-Road Ministry. A member of the pastoral team is the chaplain at this camp, providing Bible Study and discipleship training to people who have not been reached by the church in any other way. At every opportunity, the church is involved in community activities and events, inviting and welcoming people into the ministry of the church.
Bible Study and small group engagement have been sother key component in Ebensburg U.M. Church’s vital ministry. A strong foundation was built through many years of offering Disciple Bible Study. Now, a multitude of Bible studies, small groups, and fellowship groups meet on a regular basis to provide deeper conversation about faith and practical guidance in how to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Going against the current trends in the church, the Ebensburg Sunday School is vital and growing, teaching children, youth and adults the Way of Christ!
At the conclusion of every worship experience in the growing Ebensburg network, these deeply Wesleyan words are spoken: “The best of all is…God is with us!” Those words indeed summarize the ministry of the Ebensburg United Methodist Church as they seek “to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!”