Elena Gray-Blanc

Church: First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Anapamu St.

Service Attended: Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Pastors: Rev. Dr. Hillary Chrisley, Rev. Dr. Alan Strout

Denomination: Methodist

Congregation Size: 200-250 attending services

Services: Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.; children and youth school available during first service; nursery care available during both.

Contact: Call 963-3579 or visit fumcsb.org.

Elena Gray-Blanc

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, many Christian churches offer special worship services. This week, the First United Methodist Church offered a children’s Nativity pageant, with music, readings, and a play representing the birth of Jesus. Even without the spiritual component of the performance, the kids were very cute; the costumes included little sheep hats with floppy ears for the children playing the animals in the manger. One tiny sheep spent much of the performance running up and down the aisle, alternately too shy to be on stage with the others and afraid of being left out.

Other than the kids’ performance, the service progressed as usual. The First United Methodist Church boasts a beautiful organ, and their choir is excellent; the quality of the music, and good selection of hymns and organ pieces, really sets this congregation apart, as do the two pastors who officiate together. Their alternation of blessings and prayers provides a certain diversity of attitude and style to the service.

First United Methodist, with this mix of the very traditional and the somewhat modern, has achieved a balance many congregations strive for and few achieve. The grandeur of a traditional service can be a little unapproachable, and the modernity of some services can feel too familiar and lacking in tradition for some worshippers. This congregation has found a way to move with the times without leaving the thousands of years of Christian history behind.

Their missionary activities also reflect this attitude. Rather than simply sending missions abroad to convert, they actively help communities in need. In cooperation with Santa Barbara’s Temple B’Nai B’Brith, they make an annual summer trip to the South to rebuild churches in black communities that have been targeted in hate crimes. Any community members interested in assisting with the project are encouraged and welcomed to contact the church for more information.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the First United Methodist Church or to visit for a Sunday service will be welcomed likewise; the low-key, friendly atmosphere is pervasive.


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