United Methodists discontinue Forrest Avenue, East Lake churches

The discontinuation of two churches, a merger involving another one and the combination of nine churches into four pastoral appointments has caused the biggest shift in alignment of the Chattanooga District of the United Methodist Church in many years.

Forrest Avenue UMC and East Lake UMC, both of which were discontinued at the annual meeting of the denomination's Holston Conference this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C., had a combined history of 225 years, the former having been organized in 1887 and the latter in 1908. At the end of 2008, Forrest Avenue had 85 members and East Lake 74 members, though far fewer members in both congregations were active.

Dr. Fred Dearing, superintendent for the congregation's Chattanooga District, said it had grown difficult for the small congregations to maintain their buildings.

He said Forrest Avenue would continue as an extension ministry of the denomination's Office of Urban Ministries, one that will serve the poor who have "no viable means to being self-supporting."

The program serving homeless residents maintained by the Rev. Barry Kidwell, the church's final pastor, will continue under a new name and at a site to be determined, Dr. Dearing said.

It has not been determined what will happen to Forrest Avenue's building, he said.

Dr. Dearing said at East Lake four attending members were trying to keep the building up. He said he is in contact with other groups over possible use of the structure.

Earlier this year, 50-year-old Highland Plaza UMC merged with Hixson UMC. Its building continues to house the day care center that has been established there for many years.

The four pastors whose assignments expanded from one to two, or one to three, churches are Wayne Cook, who added the Morganville and Slygo congregations to his present appointment of Sand Mountain; Rhonda Hobbs, who now will pastor Fairview in Hixson in addition to her duties as associate pastor at Burks; Janice Roberson, who has added Flintstone in Chattanooga Valley to her present assignment at Fort Oglethorpe; and Clair Travis, who will add Middle Valley to her present duties at Grace in North Hixson.

In new pastoral appointments finalized at this week's Holston Annual Conference:

* Bryan Daniel (Sardis) -- The Whitwell, Tenn., congregation will be his first appointment.

* Larry Dial (Jones Memorial) -- He comes to the East Ridge congregation after six years at Asbury UMC in Knoxville. This is his first appointment in the district.

* Terry Huffer (Brooks Memorial) -- A part-time local pastor, she moves to the Lupton City congregation after a year as an associate pastor at Forrest Avenue.

* Micah Nicolaus (Lighthouse) -- He moves to the Ooltewah congregation after four years at his first appointment, associate pastor at the conference's largest church, Cokesbury in Knoxville.

* Greg Smart (Pikeville) -- No stranger to the district, he previously served St. Luke in Chattanooga (2007-2010) and Sand Mountain (2003-2007) as pastor, and First-Centenary (1997-2003) as director of youth ministries.

* Cynthia Thompson (St. Luke) -- Prior to coming to the Stuart Heights church, she was pastor at First UMC in Surgoinsville, Tenn., since 2006. In the district, she previously served as associate pastor at Wesley Memorial from 1997 to 2000.

* Linda Bird Wright (First-Centenary) -- She was appointed to the downtown Chattanooga church earlier this year and will continue in that capacity at what is also the church she and her family attended before she enrolled in seminary.

* Bryan Wyke (Looney's Creek/Sulphur Springs) -- Before coming to the Sequatchie Valley churches, he served the Draper Circuit in the Wytheville (Va.) District since 2005.

Elsewhere, Clark Taylor, a United Methodist minister who became chief executive officer of Hospice of Chattanooga in January, will continue in that position, and Edward Snodgrass, who had served as Highland Plaza's final pastor, will continue his full-time position as the Joseph Glenn Sherrill Chairman of Bible at McCallie School.

Pastors who are retiring are Cecil Baxter (after 11 years at Looney's Creek and Sulphur Springs), Charles Dixon (after 11 years at Flintstone), Henry Groseclose (after 10 years at Fairview) and Vernon Windom (after 11 years at Morganville/Slygo Valley).


The denomination's Cleveland District is also shifting its alignment of congregations. The Benton and Chestuee churches, the Trinity and Pleasant Grove churches in Cleveland, and the Red Hill and Sugar Creek churches will be paired to be served by one pastor apiece during the 2010-2011 conference year.

In addition, the Evensville and St. Clair congregations will be separated, and each will be served by one pastor.

New pastoral assignments include:

* Terry Benetto (Red Hill-Sugar Creek) -- In the area, he has previously served as pastor of the McDonald congregation.

* Jason Crandall (St. Paul's, Etowah-Carlock) -- He comes to the paired congregations after serving as pastor at Martel in the Oak Ridge District since 2008.

* Travis Humbard (Black Fox).

* C. Don Jones (Daisy) -- He comes to the Soddy-Daisy congregation after serving Valley Forge in the Johnson City District since 2009.

* Nicole M. Krewson (associate, Keith Memorial).

* T. Anthony "Andy" Miles (Graysville-New Bethel).

* Mary Parson (Calhoun-Spring Creek) -- The former Chattanoogan comes to the two congregations after serving Chestnut Hill in the Morristown District since 2005. In the area, she also has served Lookout Mountain in the Chattanooga District (1997-1999).

* Kenneth Pierce (First, Dayton) -- He has served Holston View in the Big Stone Gap District since 2002. He returns to Southeast Tennessee for the first time since serving Sardis in the Chattanooga District from 1980 to 1983.

* James Silcox (St. Clair).

* Betsy Switzer (Benton-Chestuee) -- Prior to coming to the two churches, she had served as an associate pastor since 2006 at Central UMC in Lenoir City in the Oak Ridge District and been a student at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Elsewhere, Marvin Howard, who had pastored Trinity in Cleveland, will add Pleasant Grove to his responsibilities, and William R. Boyd, who served both Evensville and St. Clair congregations, now will serve just Evensville.

Clergy who are retiring are Linda Hansen Kress, who formerly served as a diaconal minister of music at Wesley Memorial UMC and First UMC, both in Cleveland, and Ben L. Roberson, who had served St. Paul's in Etowah and Carlock UMCs since 2006.