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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Prayers from the pumpkin patch

    November 6, 2023 / By Rev. Elizabeth J. Stewart, retired Upper New York Pastor

    So, what does a retired pastor do during the early fall days? How about sitting in a pumpkin patch for five weeks for about nine hours a day? A most glorious time to spend with the Lord!      

    Twelve years ago, I retired from “active ministry” and, with my husband, moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It didn’t take long for us to settle into Conway Centenary UMC. Bill and I have become active in the church's mission. This is one story. 

    "So, first and foremost, I urge God’s people to pray. They should make their requests, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all humanity" (1 Timothy 2:1). 

    A new addition was apparent in the Conway Centenary United Methodist Church pumpkin patch this year. For many years, the church has been affectionately called “The Pumpkin Church” because of its pumpkin patch where they sell pumpkins to raise funds for mission projects. Pastor 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 was a perfect move. So, a few days later, the first prayer pumpkin was placed on a table in the pumpkin patch. 

    As people visited the patch and purchased pumpkins, they were introduced to the prayer pumpkin and were 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 a prayer would be offered for those people. The response was overwhelming.  

    It was interesting to see people’s facial expressions and attitudes change from disinterest to concern, joy, and compassion. Minutes after placing the second one out, a person purchased several of the smaller, perfectly shaped, white and orange pumpkins. While she paid for her pumpkins, I explained the purpose of the prayer pumpkins. Her eyes filled with tears. She picked up the pen and wrote several names. As she set the pen down, she pointed at the prayer pumpkin and said, "this is the most important pumpkin," and then, pointing to the pumpkins she was purchasing, she said "so much more than all of these." 

    It was an extraordinary experience. Young children asked if they could put a friend’s name, a grandparent's name, or a brother or sister's name on the pumpkin. College students mentioned a struggling student, picked up the pen, and wrote that name on the pumpkin. Another college student told a friend that a classmate had been in an accident that morning and no one knew how he was doing as she placed his name on the pumpkin. A week later, that student was at the pumpkin patch and spotted his name. He smiled and said, “that was for me.”   

    Prayers were also offered for ministries of other churches, “We pray for your ministries and you pray for ours.” There were prayers for illness, injury, unspoken needs, teachers, and clergy. One for a Roman Catholic priest celebrating his 90th birthday, still serving the Lord in as an active Parish Priest. A total of six pumpkins were displayed with over a thousand names as well as missions and other countries. 

    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, we bring hope and comfort to the world in need. The Prayer Pumpkin Church will continue with fervent prayer for love, compassion, forgiveness hope, and peace. 

    TAGGED / Communications

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."