By Rev. Tom Beaty, D.Min.
Some things defy explanation. I will never forget taking my family to see the Grand Canyon. We had heard about the beauty of the Canyon and had suffered through dozens of our friends pictures depicting the many vistas. We thought we knew what to expect when we got there. It wasn’t until we stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon that we understood why so many people had encouraged us to observe scenery too magnificent to describe. The awesome beauty was beyond description. For those who have visited the Grand Canyon you probably have struggled as we have to describe what we have seen.
When my District Superintendent, Rev. Carol Woods, asked me if I would be willing to serve the people who worship at Cedar Springs UMC in Brad, TX I accepted. My family settled in Palo Pinto County in the early 1850s and I thought I was familiar with much of the county and the Methodist congregations. I knew that the old Cedar Springs church building and tabernacle were burned to the ground during the fires of 2011. The Bishop and I had visited the tragic ruins of the old church. The people of Strawn UMC graciously opened their doors to the members of Cedar Springs UMC for worship until they decided what they wanted to do. I must admit that I had hopes of combining two congregations into one since many of the members of Cedar Springs live in Strawn. Additionally, I thought that Cedar Springs UMC was like many rural congregations, generally older with dwindling congregations. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There is an indefinable quality of the people who eagerly worship and fellowship at Cedar Springs. They have a mystical tie to the land upon which the church is located. Their love for one another and their connection to their rich historical past is part of the glue that holds them together. As a congregation they love Christ, simplicity, honesty, and desire to be respected for who they are and the heritage they feel called to preserve. On my first Sunday I realized that they wanted a shepherd who would feed and love them. They believe they should take care of the rest.
I can’t explain why people faithfully attend a little church that is barely visible from Highway 180. I don’t understand why a church that exists in a non-existent community has numerous young families with children faithfully attending and serving. Even the members cannot tell me why people from foreign places like Dallas, Austin and Arkansas just show up for worship. It is not unusual to have 30 or more people come for worship. On special Sundays, like the consecration of the new church building over 130 people came! I was overwhelmed when I learned that the church’s mailing list consists of almost 300 people all of whom have an observable tie to the church.
Sunday mornings are Grand Canyon experiences for me. I have the joy of observing a strong, dedicated body of believers who survived the destruction of their beloved historic church, endured relocating while rebuilding, experiencing four worship time changes and three pastors all in one year! The only way I can describe Cedar Springs UMC is to invite you to come see for yourself. Pictures and words only go so far. Some things are best understood by being there. Seeing is believing.