Welcoming Rev. Eleanor Collinsworth to Bath: Centenary UMC
November 6, 2018 / By Bob Dunham, Co-Lay Leader, Bath: Centenary UMC
t was Sunday, July 6, 2014, and everyone at Centenary was anxious and excited to welcome our new pastor. Several of us had already met Pastor Eleanor when she came to an evening gathering at our church in the spring to be introduced and to have the opportunity to tell us a little about herself. It also gave her the chance to meet several of us for the first time.
While I’m sure she wanted to make a good first impression, which she definitely did, we also wanted to make a good impression on her. We think of ourselves as a warm and welcoming church family, and we certainly wanted to convey that to her at our very first opportunity.
That first Sunday in July 2014 was, in fact, a very positive and uplifting experience for the whole church family. The immediate response to Eleanor was one of pure joy that someone who we instantly liked had been selected to be our new pastor.
From that first sermon on July 6, Eleanor’s sermons continue to be biblically based and presented in a way that not only makes them easy to listen to, but also are memorable and give each member of the church family something to ponder and to incorporate into their daily life.
We did know, however, that it would be difficult for many to get to know her well by just seeing her in church Sunday morning and, for some, at various committee meetings. So, we planned and scheduled many informal small-group get-togethers at members’ homes. This gave Eleanor and her husband Mark the opportunity to visit with the church family a few at a time allowing them to share more about the two of them and their backgrounds and experiences. It also provided for them the chance to visit with and get to know members of their new church family on a personal and more intimate basis.
Everyone who attended one of these small-group gatherings was thrilled with the experience and found the time they were able to share with Eleanor and Mark very enjoyable and valuable.
I think Eleanor realized right from the start that the transition into a new pastorate is not something that takes only a few weeks or even a few months. It is an ongoing and fluid process that continues to evolve as time goes by. Eleanor is a master at continuing to grow into the position and to allow us all to grow with her.
It wasn’t long after Eleanor came to Centenary that we discovered that she has a beautiful singing voice, and she joined our choir to share her talent with us each Sunday morning. This is just one of the many gifts that she shares with us.
One of the many things that impressed many of us right from the start was Eleanor’s willingness to step right in and work with us and beside us as we put on church dinners, rummage sales, and other events. She has never hesitated to take an active role in whatever endeavor we are involved with.
She made it clear, almost from day one, that she would welcome our ideas and suggestions for enhancing and expanding our ministries both for our church family and for the Bath community and for people throughout the world. She has and continues to give us many opportunities to do just that.
Though Eleanor did not come into our new relationship with the intention of instantly making sweeping changes, we would soon learn that she was and is a very creative and thoughtful person. She has a way of suggesting ideas for our consideration that somehow turn out to be accepted as great ideas that we are eager to implement. She never dictates, but, instead, gently conveys a vision that she thinks we might like to consider, and lo and behold, it turns out that we often do.
Just some of the ideas that have come to fruition include: The Church Has Left the Building, Senior Gatherings, and The Bath Community Clothing Closet. The Clothing Closet, which provides free gently used clothing for young children, is located in the basement of our church.Eleanor didn’t limit her focus to Centenary. She wanted to be an active and contributing member of the entire community. Her “transition” involved much more than a focus on Centenary and our church family. She is active and visible in the greater Bath community and never hesitates to reach out to others in need. She is a member of the Bath Rotary Club and participates actively in their many outreach programs. She meets often and works closely with other Bath pastors as they ecumenically look for ways to serve the greater community and not just the people who attend their individual churches.
Eleanor developed soon after her arrival in Bath a close working relationship with the Bath Food Pantry “Turning Point,” and she encourages our congregation to contribute food and other items on a weekly basis throughout the entire year. She has also taken a leadership role in the Crop Walk which locally raises thousands of dollars to fight hunger both in the greater Bath area and throughout the world.
I can’t imagine anyone who could have made a more positive first impression which just continues to grow and blossom as each day, week, month, and year go by.
To say that we, at Centenary, have been blessed to have Eleanor with us would be an understatement. She was, from the start, and continues to be just who we need as our pastor, and we sincerely hope that she will be with us for many years to come.