From the Pastor’s Study –

It is one of those crystal-clear memories of a special moment in time.

I’m a teenager, sitting in the balcony of the Albright Church in Sunbury on a Sunday evening. The church is full of people from Sunbury and Northumberland; there are dignitaries sitting on the platform. A hefty man (D.S.? Bishop?) is speaking from the pulpit, talking about our new name, ‘The United Methodist Church.’

My brief memory is from 1968, the year that the United Methodist Church was formed by the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, forming the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. This was a time when ‘mainline’ churches were a dominate religious factor in America. Considering that the Methodist Church had been formed from a merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church- South and the Methodist Protestant Church less than 30 years before, and the EUB church formed just 22 years earlier, it seemed that this latest merger was another step in bringing Protestant churches together. It looked like history was marching in the direction of bigger, all-inclusive church bodies.

55 years later, on Wednesday evening, May 17, 2023 I was again sitting in a balcony; this time in the Community Arts Center in Williamsport. I was there as a member of the Susquehanna Annual Conference of the UMC (clergy, another denomination) to vote on the disaffiliation of 141 congregations from the UMC and the Conference; 17 percent of our Conference churches. The mood was far different from the celebration of 1968; the voting was paced with prayers of grief and lament. Again, a memory I will never forget.

Looking back now, it appears that my first memory was more of a ‘high water’ mark for mainline churches. There would be a few more mergers (the Lutherans and the Presbyterians each would work to come together), but tide was turning. The United Methodists would steadily lose members and would shortly be over-taken by the Southern Baptist Convention as the largest Protestant body. (To be fair, the SBC has had its own troubling losses in recent years.) The scene I recently witnessed and took part in is being played out in UM Annual Conferences across the country.

I want to commend our Conference leadership for the way our meetings were conducted. With the levels of emotions around our actions and deliberations, there were a few moments when exchanges got ‘chippy;’ but these were thankfully rare. In the ministry and spending proposals laid out, our Conference has responsible plans for a ‘down-sized’ future (for example, going from seven Superintendents to five).

We have learned – again – that our powers to predict the future are limited; we cannot count on the ‘tides of history’ to take us where we want to go. We need to ask God to lead us, by his Word and Spirit; and then follow and act when he shows us his way. If we would be faithful to Christ, he will be faithful to us.

– Pastor Ron Troup



<>< Pastor Ron Troup

Faith UMC, Sunbury, PA –

203 Arch Street (corner of 2nd St.)

PO Box 387, Sunbury, PA  17801

(570) 286-6301 – ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Faith United Methodist Church • 203 Arch Street Sunbury, PA 17801 • (570) 286-6301