The Myrtle Collaboration at Fairlawn Presbyterian Church
By: Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, Fairlawn Presbyterian Church, Columbus, IN
Fairlawn Presbyterian Church joined the Myrtle Cohort with First Presbyterian Church of Columbus and First Presbyterian Church of Bloomington, Indiana. The three churches independently chose to become a Matthew 25 Congregation of the PCUSA. At the time we were the only churches in the presbytery to be a Matthew 25 church. The Myrtle Cohort allowed for the three of us to partner together and live out the call of Matthew 25 mandate. First Presbyterian of Columbus is focused on ending systemic poverty. First Presbyterian of Bloomington focus is on eradicating systemic racism. Fairlawn Presbyterian entered Matthew 25 focusing in on congregational vitality.
The Matthew 25 Mrytle Cohort churches have been blessed with the opportunity to connect with one another via zoom meetings, joint Lenten studies for the past two years and planning on another one in 2024, a gathering retreat to develop our relationships and explore the foci of Matthew 25. We organized and co-hosted with PYOCA a youth retreat for based on Matthew 25 introducing the next generation to feed my sheep as Jesus calls us. While Fairlawn entered Matthew 25 as congregational vitality, partnering with our cohort churches has enabled us to enter the dialogue and reflect upon the other two sides of Matthew 25.
For Fairlawn specifically, the Myrtle Cohort allowed us to continue our process of exploring God’s call to our community. We chose to allocate Myrtle funds for intergenerational worship and Christian nurture activities, hosting community forums, strengthening our partnership with a local elementary school, and assisting our worship and the arts.
As a small church, Fairlawn has the challenge of looking at how does Christian Nurture function when there are small amounts of different ages and numbers. For the past two years, we have held Intergenerational Vacation Bible School for all ages. Our first year looked at how compassion is at the center of our lives and Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. Each night we combined bible study, crafts, and games centered on compassion. For our last night we collect school supplies for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Gift of the Heart Kits and church members sewed all the bags.
This past summer we focused on finding joy in both our lives and faith. We looked at how do we find joy in both the good and bad times. This year was a similar set up of bible study, crafts, and games with our ending celebration of homemade ice cream and mission drive of school supplies for the teachers at Smith Elementary School. Both years of intergenerational VBS bought out some of Fairlawn’s youngest and oldest members to sit down and table together to create, to play, and to discover God’s movement on our lives.
Our efforts to explore together have also sent us out into our community. We now have Go and Serve Sundays where the congregation gathers for worship and then goes out in service. All ages and abilities participate and work together. Projects have ranged from helping our preschool get ready for the new year, weeding and spreading mulch on a playground, writing thank you letters to all employees of Smith Elementary school, creating empowering buttons for Turning Point (the domestic violence shelter in our community), singing at nursing homes, helping at Utopia (animal rehabilitation shelter), cleaning at the local homeless shelter, and writing back to school cards for children in Columbus.
Thank you to the Myrtle Foundation for your support of Fairlawn’s mission and ministry. We have been both blessed and enriched by our partnership with Mrytle and our fellow Matthew 25 churches. Thanks be to God.