MOORE, Okla. — Worshippers arriving June 2 at First United Methodist Church in Moore found the church lacked electricity. They didn’t need it.
Packed with people, that Sunday morning service was powered by the Son.
For almost two weeks, the church had been charging into the chaos caused by a tornado May 20. Two-dozen people died, including children. Thousands of homes were gone.
The Moore-First family hugged and helped neighbors and members affected by that storm.
They kept hustling to minister when another round of deadly tornadoes struck May 31. That time, the church building sustained some damage, along with more of the city’s power grid.
But that June 2 brought bright-blue sky. Open doors drew a breeze through the church’s Christian Life Center, merely months old. Babies gurgled. Children scurried to select activity kits. Additional folding chairs appeared as the crowd grew. Passing the Peace of Christ held extra meaning.
As of June 10, the Oklahoma Annual (regional) Conference treasurer’s office has received $582,540.76 for the special fund “2013 May Tornado Relief.” Since May 20, UMCOR has raised an additional $966,264 for U.S. disaster relief in Oklahoma, Texas and other tornado-ravaged areas.
The Rev. Tish Malloy, senior pastor, acknowledged the lack of electricity and water. “But we have life!” she proclaimed.
And worship bulletins. Those had been printed by McFarlin United Methodist Church in Norman, Okla., a valuable gesture by a good neighbor.
Without power for microphones, worship leaders almost became “shouting Methodists” — formerly used to describe members of the faith, according to Oklahoma Area Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
“We’ve worshipped without electricity a longer time than with it,” said Malloy, and older worshippers smiled knowingly.
The people prayed, “Lord, open our hearts and minds … that … we may hear with joy what you say to us today.”
Coincidentally, that Sunday also was Malloy’s last as the church’s pastor. She has been appointed as Stillwater District superintendent; she pastored for seven years at Moore.
And the church family prayed that day to hear God’s word with joy.
The joy of the Lord is your strength, Nehemiah told the Israelites. That deep joy will strengthen First United Methodist Church through the challenging months to come.
Already, it’s obvious there.
On May 24, an initial delivery of United Methodist Committee on Relief emergency relief supplies for tornado survivors was unloaded there. The church is providing office space for a Long Term Recovery Center in Moore, in coordination with UMCOR. A support group for survivors will begin meeting June 20.
And despite the continuing electrical outage, the church welcomed some 60 elementary students on June 3 for the first day of Project Transformation, a nine-week literacy day camp affiliated with the Oklahoma Conference.
Electrical power was restored June 5 and phone service on the next day, said a receptionist at the church.
“It’s more important than ever that churches like ours rise up” in the crisis, Malloy preached on June 2. “We’ve got to be community for people who (now) don’t have one. We must light the darkness for others.”
*McCray is the editor of the Oklahoma United Methodist Contact.