ShareThis Page
South Hills

At 175, Jefferson United Methodist Church still growing, changing

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, 4:57 p.m.
Jefferson United Methodist Church circa 1843
Submitted
Jefferson United Methodist Church circa 1843
Jefferson United Methodist Church
Submitted
Jefferson United Methodist Church

Evelyn Christofel has been attending the same church for 89 years and counting. Having gone since she was 2, she’s the longest-tenured living member of the congregation. She even met her husband there.

Christofel, 91, is also one of the church’s longest-serving members. She helped seat tables at church dinners as a teenager, taught Sunday school throughout her life, once led the junior choir, and still helps bake apple dumplings for mission fundraisers.

“This is my place on Sunday morning,” the Jefferson Hills resident said. “That’s the way it is.”

In the 175 years that it’s been open, Jefferson United Methodist Church has been “my place” for countless others as well. Because the exact date of the church’s 1843 founding is not known, its members and ministry have celebrated the landmark anniversary all year long.

The church today counts approximately 200 members and is well-known to outsiders for its apple dumpling and apricot roll sales, proceeds from which benefit the church’s Methodist mission apportionment. Members say what keeps them coming back are the many friendly faces dotting the pews.

“We care about one another,” treasurer Margaret Uranker said. “We laugh with one another, we cry with one another, we help one another. I can’t ever remember a time that I was unhappy with anyone in the church.”

At a time when church attendance is dropping nationwide, Jefferson is eyeing ways to draw in new and younger members. The Rev. Cyndi Bloise said the church plans to bring on a Fresh Expressions practitioner in hopes of appealing to a new generation. The global Christian “fresh expression” movement experiments with the structure and setting of church services.

Bloise said the church could begin its own experiments — such as worshipping without music or holding discussion-based services — by Easter Sunday.

In her 15 months as JUMC’s pastor, Bloise said she’s tried to make her congregation more comfortable with the idea of attempting new things, even if those attempts end in failure. The challenge, she said, will be pushing the church forward without alienating longtime members.

“I try to communicate that if we’re doing something new, stories are going to be told of this time when we made a choice to cross over the mountains,” she said. “Stories are going to get told of the people who were brave enough to step out of their comfort zone and learn a new language and meet new people.”

Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me