Centenary ‘Pumpkin Church’ transforms with prayer

By the Rev. Elizabeth “BJ” Stewart

CONWAY—A new addition was apparent in the Centenary United Methodist Church Pumpkin Patch this year: prayer pumpkins.

For many years the church has been affectionately called “The Pumpkin Church” by those living in its proximity. But pastor the Rev. Dennis Devorick asked worshippers to consider the depth of our existence—what is it that we are known for besides pumpkins?

With those words in mind, and having read an article about a mom placing a prayer pumpkin on the kitchen table for the family to place prayer needs for each other on, it seemed to be a perfect move. And so a few short days later, Prayer Pumpkin Number One was placed on the table in the patch.

As people approached to purchase their pumpkins, they were introduced to the prayer pumpkin and asked if they would like to add the name of someone in need of prayer. We explained that on Sunday the pumpkin would be moved to the altar in church where all a prayer would be offered for those people. The response was overwhelming.

Over the course of the pumpkin patch a total of six pumpkins were displayed, with names placed on them and prayed over during worship. It was interesting to see the faces of the people—the attitudes changing from disinterest to concern, joy, compassion and stories. Young and old placed names on the pumpkins. Minutes after placing the second one out, a person purchased several of the smaller, perfectly shaped white and orange pumpkins. While she was paying, I explained the purpose of the pumpkins. The person’s eyes filled with tears. She picked up the pen and wrote several names. And she set the pen down, she pointed to where the writing was and said, “This is the most important thing.” And then pointing to the pumpkins purchased, she added, “So much more than all of these.”

It is had been an experience—young children asking if they can put a friend’s name, a grandparent’s name, a brother or sister’s name on the pumpkin. College students mentioning a struggling student and picking up the pen and putting that name there. “Can I put more than one name?” Tears, smiles and thank-yous for this opportunity. Early in the weeks of the Pumpkin Patch, a college student remarked to a friend that a classmate had been in an accident that morning and no one knew how he was doing. She placed his name on the pumpkin. A week later, said student was there, spotted his name and smiled, saying, “That was for me.”

Prayers were offered for ministries of other churches, for “we pray for your ministries and you pray for ours.” Prayers were offered for illness, injury, unspoken needs, teachers, clergy. One prayer was for a Roman Catholic priest celebrating his 90th birthday and still serving the Lord in as an active parish priest. More than a thousand names, as well as missions, countries and the world, were remembered in prayer.

Yes, we may be known as “The Pumpkin Church,” but more so now as the “Prayer Pumpkin Church,” reaching the community as a witness of being a praying church and bringing hope and comfort to a world in great need.

The Praying Pumpkin Church will continue with fervent prayer for love, compassion, forgiveness and hope and peace.

Stewart is a retired UMC pastor attending Centenary UMC, Conway.

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