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One church helping out another

By Staff | Jul 29, 2018

Members of the UMC Church of Winnebago met with Pastor Russ Jacobsen (second from right) at the Flip ‘N’ Shake in Winnebago.

Rumor on the streets of Winnebago says that the First United Methodist Church of Winnebago is having to shut down.

Chalk this up to pure rumor because this church is merely seeking a new chapter of their deep history in Winnebago. The church is alive and well, but will be infused with a little “Hope.”

That hope is Pastor Russ Jacobsen of Hope United Methodist Church in Blue Earth, who has officially been appointed as the pastor at First UMC, Winnebago. But don’t worry, he’s not leaving Hope UMC. The two local Methodist churches have agreed to share the talents of Pastor Jacobsen.

An open house will be held in honor of the “new” pastor on Aug. 27, at 5 p.m. as well as a back to school blessing for students.

“I will serve there a quarter of the time and remain at Hope the rest of the time,” says Pastor Jacobsen. “I am excited about this.”

In order to meet his new congregation members, Pastor Jacobsen invited members of First UMC to the Flip N’ Shake for ice cream. There, members of the community church were able to meet their pastor, talk about their goals for the future, and discuss ways of creating a wider variety of activities for youth and families in the church.

According to parish member Jackie Rynearson, the church has been mission-minded since its beginning back in 1856.

“We are a very mission-minded church,” says Rynearson. “That means we devote a lot of our time as a parish serving others in our community and helping to serve other community groups like Interfaith Caregivers, Meals on Wheels, and the like. We are now looking to the future of our church and in that future we see a lot of family activities and connecting with the youth in our community in order for them to have fun things to do.”

Pastor Jacobsen says this opportunity for the Winnebago church is very exciting to him, and to the members of the church he has already met.

“This group of people do so much already, and here they are sharing ideas and activities to get even more involved in their church and the community,” says Jacobsen. “On Sunday mornings, the church serves a free-will donation brunch complete with egg bakes and monkey bread. Every Sunday! That’s just wonderful, and in May, they have a delicious chicken and biscuit supper that raises funds for mission trips.”

The new First UMC pastor also shared his enthusiasm for a plethora of other activities the 90-member church dedicates their time to. Like both a men’s Bible group that meets monthly at the Huntley Caf during the non-summer months, as well as a women’s group that meets at the church during the same time of year.

“On Aug. 23, we are having a bowling night for the youth and families at Lucky Lanes,” says Jacobsen. “Be sure to check out our new Facebook page for more information on that event. But seriously, we are very excited to not only get more of our young families and congregation to be reignited, but we are hoping this resurgence of activity will bring not only familiar faces to the church, but new faces as well.”

The church has been involved in a lot of Winnebago community fundraisers and programs and the parishioners see this as an opportunity to get more folks involved in serving the community.

“We do have an older population base in our church,” says Rynearson. “And in the past few years, we have lost a lot of our members to older age. We’ve gone through some huge changes and it is hard to get leadership in our church to either come back or to grow. It is so wonderful to have Pastor Jacobsen come and help us engage our Winnebago community.”

Jay Reinders, another active member of the church, shares the excitement he has of two separate congregations cooperating with one another for the benefit of community.

“Kids like having company, so it’s good to be able to have a rejuvenation of life and activities for them. It’s good to see the churches working together, too. We are all neighbors here and if we can help each other, we will.”

Reinders also shares the fascinating history of the church.

The church was burned down in 1924. The historic story is said that coal was being put in the furnace to keep everyone warm for that Sunday’s service, and something must’ve sparked a fire in the flume. The history states the church’s choir still sang as the church continued burning beneath them and they finally dismissed the choir. The choir continued to sing after they were taken out of the church.

And, the new church was built on top of the old church’s foundation. Talk about having a solid foundation.

Now the large church is bigger and has been used for many musical moments in the town’s history due to its acoustics.

“When the college used to be in town, they would use the church for choral practice and different musical performances for the students going to college for music,” says Rynearson. “We have a beautiful sanctuary.”

With its decorated past and prominent parishioners providing hope for the future, the First UMC congregation is feeling the momentum begin to build with the addition of Pastor Jacobsen’s service to the parish, as well as TJ and Jenny Lewis who will be helping develop community outreach as well as doing some lay speaking for First UMC as well.

“We’ve got all of the supplies and ideas we could ever ask for,” says Rynearson. “Now all we need are the people.”

Regular services for First UMC, located at 109 Cleveland Ave. West in Winnebago, are on Sundays at 10:45 a.m.

“We surely hope to see both new faces and some familiar ones we haven’t seen for a while,” says Rynearson. “And with Pastor Russ sharing his enthusiasm, I feel very hopeful for our church.