The pandemic produces positive outcomes for Chittenango UMC
Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has hurt many churches’ attendance, giving, and more. But many have seen positive outcomes. Chittenango United Methodist Church is one of them. Retired pastor, the Rev. John Fulton, took on a part-time appointment to become Chittenango’s pastor eight years ago. He said, “It’s weird to think that the pandemic impacted the church in a positive way, but it kind of did.”
About 30 people filled the pews every Sunday for Rev. Fulton’s services the past eight years. Forced to think creatively in March when the pandemic hit, Rev. Fulton closed his church doors and held services via Zoom. Prior to the pandemic, the church did not have any form of electronic communication.
The unexpected happened. The attendance more than doubled. Previous church members now living across the country from Virginia to Oregon, started attending Chittenango’s Zoom services. And the giving was more generous than ever.
The Chittenango UMC congregation’s generosity impacted many ministries in a positive way.
Each year the church contributes financially to Clear Path for Veterans and were able to give generously this year with a matching donation. The organization was so grateful that they named one of their recent dogs in their Dogs 2 Vets program after the church with the name “Faith.”
Dogs 2 Vets trains service dogs and connects them with veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and/or military sexual trauma (MST). This evidence-based training has proven success in mitigating symptoms related to PTS and increasing self-compassion.
The church has continued to support two food pantries and recently filled two truck loads of nonperishable foods.
Church members recently asked Mary Rose Health Clinic in Oneida, NY (one of the only free health clinics in the area) what the church could do to help. Rev. Fulton said, “Many of the people that go to the clinic have to bring their small children with them because they do not have childcare. The clinic said they’d love to have books for the children to read in the waiting room.”
The church has since donated books to the clinic for the children not only to read at the clinic, but also, for them to take home.
Rev. Fulton said, “Some of the books are Christian. Some are not. We put little stickers on them that say Compliments of Mary Rose Health Clinic and Chittenango UMC.’”
Chittenango’s church building needed significant repair. Rev. Fulton started the first capital fund campaign the church has had since 1987—they needed $125,000 and ended up raising $200,000.
When Rev. Fulton arrived at the church eight years ago, the church hadn’t been able to afford its paid Ministry Shares for years. He said, “For the past four or five years, we have paid our Ministry Shares in full and have been able to pay all of our bills.” And this year, the offerings have been so tremendous that the church’s Administrative Council voted to give $500 to four different United Methodist churches in the area that needed help with their bills.
It has been a successful journey for Chittenango UMC over the past eight years. Rev. Fulton said, “We crawled from the basement and now we’re out in the sunshine. We have paid all our bills and local church expenses. The pandemic hasn’t hurt us and hasn’t hampered our outreach and ministry.”
Now that the church doors have reopened, there are about 20-30 people attending Rev. Fulton’s services in-person and 50 or more attending on Zoom.
Rev. Fulton concluded, “Of the eight years I have been here, this year has been the most successful.”