Churches are still relevant, still serving

By Jim Ketchum

You don’t have to look far to find a self-appointed expert pronouncing the demise of the organized church.

It’s been going on for a long time. Folks who are sure they know what they are talking about will cite declining membership and donation statistics. They will tell you the latest generation may be religious in the sense that they believe in a higher power, but they have little or no allegiance to a church or a denomination.


They will tell you this is why young people stay away from Sunday worship in ever-increasing numbers. Church can’t pass the relevancy test. Rest in peace, right?.

Not so fast.

Church attendance and support may not be what it once was, but don’t bury it just yet. For all the perceived problems, churches offer much to the communities they serve.

Smart churches innovate. The liturgical ones modernize. The hymns get refreshed. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But worship styles tend not to resemble those of 20 or 30 years ago.

Preaching styles are changing, most of them for the better. Smart denominations understand that you can catch more believers with a message of love and forgiveness than you can with pulpit-pounding words of hellfire and damnation. God, after all, is a God of love and forgiveness – and service.

Churches continue to make subtle, yet important, differences in their communities, differences too numerous to list in their entirety. I cite a couple of examples gleaned from personal experience.

Ever since St. Paul Lutheran Church moved from its cramped quarters at 14th and Wells streets in Port Huron to 3790 W. Water St. in Port Huron Township more than four decades ago, more than a few of its members wondered how to put a large chunk of land behind the building to work.

For many years, that land grew pine trees, grass and dandelions. Youth groups, and sometimes a herd of deer might gather there, but that was about it.

Then, 10 years ago, a few church members decided to plow up part of that back 40 and plant a garden. You could say the idea took root, thanks to the talents of master gardeners and volunteers willing to get sweaty and dirty to harvest the bounty.

Each year that garden produces a couple of tons of food that gets donated to Mid City Nutrition where folks in need can get a hearty meal and a smile.

Mid City itself grew out of the cooperative efforts of church volunteers from a host of congregations who saw a need and helped meet it.

Harbor Impact Ministries (810) 982-5312

Then there’s Harbor Impact, a ministry of Blue Water Free Methodist Church at 1963 Allen Road in Kimball Township. Harbor Impact collects donations of good, clean, usable items, then distributes them to folks in need, usually at monthly Impact Days.

My wife volunteers weekly, helping sort and label donations. It’s satisfying work that makes a huge difference in the lives of people who, through no fault of their own, need a helping hand. Without this vital, yet unsung, ministry, needy folks would go without.

To borrow a phrase from Dickens, these efforts are a mere drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of the church’s business. Yet, combined with all the others, it becomes a tsunami of help. Those who make it happen literally become the hands and hearts of Christ.

These and countless other examples convince me the church (small “c”) is very much alive and well.


Jim Ketchum was a reporter and editor at The Times Herald for 30 years, working first in the paper’s Sanilac County News Bureau in Sandusky beginning in 1977 before transferring to the main office in Port Huron in 1981. Before moving to the copy desk in 1983, he covered a number of beats, including health, business and general assignment reporting.
As an editor, he also began his long-running Crossroads column that focuses on issues and events in the faith community. That column now is in its 35th year. He continued writing that column and a monthly editorial page column after his retirement in 2007.
He also worked part-time for six years after retirement at Pollock-Randall Funeral Home.
Jim enjoys antique cars and owned a 1955 Nash for 22 years. He and his wife, Linda, live in Port Huron. Between them, they have five children and eight grandchildren with two more grandchildren on the way yet this year.

*A note from BWHL: The Harbor Impact Ministries served over 400 local people during their recent “Impact Day”! Relevant? I’d say so!

Looking for a place to donate your items where ALL goods go directly back to our local area? No profit is made on items donated to Harbor Impact Ministries.

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Disclaimer: Blue Water Healthy Living is an online magazine located in Port Huron, Michigan. Our purpose is to promote healthy living by showcasing the Blue Water Area, its people, issues and surroundings. This online magazine is devoted to providing healthy living related stories, local happenings, and commentary. Often inspiring and uplifting, our stories come from our heart and soul to promote the enjoyment of a more fulfilling Blue Water Area lifestyle. The material on this web site is provided for informational and amusement purposes only and is not to be confused with any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Blue Water Healthy Living.

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