The message remains the same: Maryville church set to offer Saturday worship
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
A Maryville pastor who believes that what you believe in matters more than on what day you gather to outwardly express it, is going against the grain to offer Saturday worship.
The Rev. Willa Estell, pastor of St. Paul AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Zion Church on West Broadway, will lead that first Saturday worship beginning at 10 a.m. on Sept. 1 in the church’s sanctuary. It will be an informal gathering open to all believers. It’s an idea she has been tossing around for about five years.
The ground has already been tested. Estell and her congregation have an outreach ministry called Jehovah-Jireh every Saturday. Those in need of food are welcomed to come and receive bags of groceries. While at this Saturday food giveaway those showing up have also been invited to attend a worship service that has been held for months in the Jehovah-Jireh building next to the church. Estell said they are now going to move worship to the main sanctuary and invite everyone to join them. Sunday services will continue as they always have.
Ready to launch
“We want to transition into a Saturday worship service open to everybody,” the pastor said. “I’ve had phone calls asking about Saturday worship. Part of our outreach is to meet people where they are.”
The weekly service will run about 45 minutes and will include meditation and music. Estell will be leading services on the first Saturday of each month while other ministers and lay people will bring the message the other Saturdays. Holy communion will be part of the first Saturday services, Estell said.
As Estell explained, there are some people who must work on Sundays so they can’t attend church. She said St. Paul isn’t trying to rob other churches of its members. They want to be able to help people with the worship experience.
“People who are members of other churches and have to work on Sunday can come here,” Estell said. “They will be more than welcome to come without making a commitment to this church.”
St. Paul’s Saturday services might also appeal to people who don’t necessarily want the traditional worship experience, the pastor said. This one will be informal, where casual clothing will be the norm.
The Jehovah-Jireh outreach ministry has been part of St. Paul’s for nine years. It started out in the basement fellowship hall, which it quickly outgrew. At first a clothing giveaway was part of it, but organizers decided the food focus was the right direction to take. Food from Second Harvest and donations from St. Paul’s members and the community at large have kept Jehovah-Jireh serving our most needy.
It is St. Paul’s mission to be the beloved community and that means serving whoever enters those doors. St. Paul is an African Methodist Episcopal Church, but it’s congregation has a racial mix never dreamed of in most houses of worship in the past.
“That mixture of races continues to grow,” Estell said. “In our culture, we have a lot of interracial couples. They want to feel like they belong somewhere. Here, it is OK to be just who you are.”
St. Paul’s is a small congregation, but that hasn’t stopped them from continually reaching out. Estell said believers need to do more than speak of God’s love, they need to show it.
It is hard to share Jesus’ message with someone who is hungry or homeless, Estell said, because that hungry or homeless person is only thinking of basic physical needs.
See it, believe it
“When we give them a bag of food and tell them that is God, that is showing them that love,” Estell said.
Estell isn’t sure if any other churches are offering Saturday worship, and she doesn’t know how it will be accepted. “If five people come, we will have church,” she said.
The way church is being done has changed from what many grew up with. Whereas churches today have multiple services on Sunday and choices between contemporary and traditional, the churches most of us grew up in had one service and a song book everyone followed along.
Estell said she wants everyone to know that the details making up the worship experience have changed, but there is one constant.
“The way we do church has changed but the message hasn’t,” the pastor said. “We can never relegate God to second place.”
St. Paul has been in Maryville since 1886. It was renovated in the 1980s. Estell has been pastor for 11 years and continues to seek ways to give testimony to God’s power and love.
“People need to be reminded of that,” Estell said. “We get bogged down in life sometimes and so overwhelmed. We need to be reminded that God loves us.”
After pondering this Saturday worship service for five years, Estell said she believes the timing is right. It will be one more arm of a ministry that looks to serve the community holistically.