by Theresa Dardanell
Weller United Methodist Church
A Welcoming Congregation
When I met with Pastor Bob Kells and several members of Weller United Methodist Church (UMC), I learned that this church is the oldest church within the Thurmont town limits. Although that is an interesting fact, I agreed with Dorothy Clever, president of the United Methodist Women, who said that what is going on currently in the church is more important than just the history.
The church began its history without an actual building. Members met in homes for Bible study. Jacob Weller, a prominent resident who owned and operated a local match factory, donated land for the church, which was built in 1830. During an expansion project in 1915, the bell tower and stained glass windows were added. A final expansion was completed in 1957. The cemetery has been a part of the church since the beginning. Jacob Weller and his father are buried there, along with soldiers who fought in the Civil War, as well as many local residents. Records of grave sites are available at the church. Family members can search for ancestors buried there.
Currently, Weller UMC has about one hundred active members, who do a considerable amount of community outreach, not only locally, but around the world. The major project right now is the flood buckets being assembled for the people recovering from the recent hurricanes. The buckets contain supplies for the initial cleanup so that people can return to their homes. The congregation donated an outstanding $1,490 for forty-five buckets. Pastor Bob said that the congregation responds generously when there is a need. It is “an expression of our connectedness as a church and as a people that we give these things in times of need.”
The list of ongoing projects carried out by the members of the church is impressive. Food is donated to the local food bank; toiletries are collected and donated to the Religious Coalition in Frederick. Members volunteer weekly in the classrooms at Sabillasville Elementary. Annual projects include the Catoctin area school supply drive, a summer book drive for Sabillasville Elementary, and the Thurmont Ministerium Christmas gift program. Children who go to the food bank at Christmas and Easter receive special treat bags (350 bags were distributed at Christmas last year). Members also participate in the summer lunch program, which is coordinated by the Thurmont Ministerium. During one week in the summer, they enjoy serving lunch, playing games, and working on craft projects with the children. Pat Alexander, co-chair of the Mission Team that coordinates these projects, said that the latest project is the “tied fleece” baby blankets, made by the members and donated to the Catoctin Pregnancy Center. Along with supporting the local organizations, the United Methodist Women’s group pledges money to the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, which supports the needs of people around the world.
The generosity of the members is not limited to monetary and material donations. Church Lay Leader Catherine Pitt said that the Prayer Shawl ministry is very important. Anyone who is in need of comfort or healing can request a prayer shawl for themselves or someone else. Requests are not limited to members of the church. Members create the shawls and the congregation prays for the recipient. Catherine said that knowing that an entire congregation of people is praying for you is very helpful when going through a difficult time.
Members of the congregation are not “all work and no play.” The puppet ministry is one activity in which the youth and adults are involved together. Paulette Mathias, chairperson of the Church Council, said that the puppet ministry has been performing for “children of all ages” for about five years. The lyrics for popular songs are replaced with Christian lyrics to create Christian parody music and used in skits for performances at the church, and occasionally at other locations in the community. For the adults, another social activity is the participation by the Weller team in the Frederick Christian Basketball League.
The dedication of the members was apparent during my meeting with Pastor Bob, Paulette Mathias, Dorothy Clever, Pat Alexander, Henry Alexander, Cindy Hart, and Catherine Pitt. Other hard working staff and volunteers include Lay Servant Wes Baugher; Lay Speaker Mark Eyler; Administrative Assistant Billie Lookingbill; Organist Lori Eyler; Music Director Debbie Shultzaberger; Custodian Donny Wastler, Jr.; Nursery Assistant Lois Griffith; and Parish Relations Committee Chair Colby Child. Trustee Chairman Tom Shaffer leads the team that keeps the church facilities up-to-date and in working order.
Two worship services are held every Sunday. There is a traditional service with organ music and song leaders at 8:30 a.m. and a contemporary service with christian praise music at 11:00 a.m. Sunday school for children and adults is between the services at 9:45 a.m. Easter and Christmas seasons are celebrated with special musical accompaniment by a large choir and bell choir cantata. A very special and moving remembrance service is celebrated on All Saints Sunday. For each member who has died during the previous year, a photo is projected on a screen, a candle is lit, and a bell is rung while the name is read. A special altar cloth containing the names of the deceased is placed on the altar on this day. This tradition began in 1998.
Everyone is welcome to join Weller United Methodist Church for Sunday services. It is located at 101 North Altamont Avenue in Thurmont. Call 301-271-2802 with questions during office hours, Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Visit their Facebook page or website at wellerumc.com for additional information.
Members of the Weller UMC Mission Team, with the flood buckets created for victims of the recent hurricanes.