By Jessica Connor
ANDERSON—Forget a tie or even an iPad. One United Methodist pastor received a gift far more meaningful from his congregation for his birthday.
Starr United Methodist Church, outside of Anderson, was so moved their pastor s sermon on Africa University this fall that they decided to pay their AU apportionments line item in honor of the Rev. Robert Eubanks birthday.
They have difficulties paying their apportionments, Eubanks said, noting that Starr UMC is a tiny church in a rural area. I told them this story about Africa University “ said in my opinion Africa University is one of the greatest things the Methodist church does. The reason I said that is it is educating people who would not be get an education otherwise. Even women can attend, where in their culture some women don t get that opportunity.
Eubanks shared a story with his congregation of a young woman who reportedly graduated from AU and returned home to preach, ultimately establishing a church that grew to more than 600 members.
I know the conditions in Africa are sometimes not pleasant, and that story just overwhelmed me, Eubanks said. For me, it is powerful. I can just picture that young woman going off to school.
His congregation was inspired and touched by that sermon, and the next Sunday, in addition to a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in town, a parishioner came up to Eubanks after worship and told him the church would pay its AU apportionment in honor of his birthday.
Eubanks said he always tries to personalize the apportionments system when it comes to stewardship sermons. In the past he has used various current events to put a face on the money churches pay into the Annual Conference and global UMC funds: his daughter s work in the aftermath of the tsunami in Southeast Asia a few years ago, the United Methodist Committee on Relief s work to aid after storms and earthquakes, etc.
Eubanks said it is heartening to know his church is responding to stories of connectionalism by opening their pocketbooks.
It made me also feel like the work of the Holy Spirit is taking place, to inspire us to be disciples in the world, Eubanks said. It naturally makes you feel good; anytime you re doing something and the congregation responds and accepts your preaching. It made me feel great to know they wanted to do something, they wanted to pay their apportionments.