Walking our faith: Father Dyer’s is Breckenridge’s hometown church
I’ve saved this profile of Pastor Claire McNulty Drewes and Father Dyer United Methodist church for the 4th of July weekend because the small town community spirit which surrounded me during the two services I attended reminds me of the best qualities of America: an optimistic spirit, a dedication to community service and a welcoming smile for newcomers.
The impetus might have been a series of sermons by Pastor Claire on the theme of baseball, or the people on either side of me who reached out and warmly held my hand during the benediction. After attending two services at Father Dyer, I went away thinking that anyone coming to Breckenridge could attend a service and not only feel right at home, but embraced by the community.
I’ve felt this warm welcome throughout Breckenridge since I first arrived one year ago this weekend. But if the source of this positive energy had to be found, I wouldn’t be surprised if its epicenter was Father Dyer Church.
Which makes perfect sense because the historical Father Dyer was a pioneer preacher in Summit County in the 1800s. He traveled through this area delivering mail. I heard that he would tell the miners that if they wanted their mail, they first had to listen to him preach.
Perhaps his spirit lingers in the rafters of this historic church. Or maybe it’s the protective spirit of the subsequent pastors who made sure the original church structure was preserved as the building was expanded to make room for the growing congregation.
As much as Father Dyer’s church reflects Breckenridge’s historical past, its congregation and pastor reflect the spirit of Breckenridge’s current commitment to open doors and community service.
Pastor Claire comes from a family that pursued social justice throughout their careers. Over lunch, Claire told me that she had originally planned to follow that path by pursuing a degree in social work. However, during college she experienced a call to go to seminary and pursue a life as a pastor within the United Methodist church.
Which is not to say that her interest in social justice and community service disappeared, it is a very active part of her ministry at Father Dyer church.
Pastor Claire and the Father Dyer Youth Group just returned from a week of volunteer work in Central Appalachia, where they helped the Appalachia Service Project to repair homes for low-income families.
In November, nine members of the Father Dyer congregation will be heading to Guatemala as part of a construction team. This is the tenth year that members of Father Dyer have traveled to the rural highlands of Guatemala.
Pastor Claire also oversees a variety of community service projects that benefit our local community. On Sunday evenings there is a free community dinner at the church. There is also a food bank where an effort is being made to offer fresh produce and meats to provide well-balanced diets. In addition, the church provides meeting space for support groups.
The church will have a ‘Treasure Sale’ on Saturday, July 16, for the benefit of the Pastor’s Special Assistance Fund to help local people in special circumstances. If you have items to donate to this large yard sale, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
To truly experience this community of faith in action, I believe you need to attend a Sunday morning service at 9 a.m.
The interior of the church is L-shaped with seating in both of the legs and the altar and choir situated in the center. The music director, Jason Wilber, and accompanist, Steve Worrall, lead a Chancel Choir of perhaps 12-15 brave souls who sing like angels and the rest of the congregation, who give it their joyful best.
During prayer time, the congregation is invited to light candles at one of two stations for prayer intentions. I am impressed by the long lines that formed. Active participation is a sign of the health of a church, in my opinion.
After the Scripture reading, Pastor Claire shares a brief sermon relating the day’s Bible reading to our daily lives. The message is upbeat and encourages us to take God’s love into our community.
What surprised me most each time I attended service at Father Dyer is the relationship between Pastor Claire and the congregation.
There is a palpable energy of love and support between the congregants and their pastor. This is a church that is energized by their weekly attendance. What better reflection of God’s Word could be hoped for?
If you are looking for a church home this Sunday, stop by Father Dyer on Sunday at 9 a.m. You will be welcomed and leave feeling uplifted.
Now, let’s zoom outward for my conclusion. Father Dyer is the third church I’ve written about in this faith column. It’s also the first time in my thirty years in the Catholic church that I’ve attended churches of other Christian denominations with the intention of experiencing them as an outsider.
What I have learned is that the way in which we choose to worship should not validate our love for God or the sincerity of our belief.
In the Catholic Church, my spirit is fed during communion and contemplative prayer during adoration of the blessed sacrament. Pastor Claire has found in her church a means to live out her desire for social justice and to lead others to help God’s work in their community. We both serve God using our unique talents. As Pastor Claire said in her sermon last week, we are each part of God’s body, called to be ourselves in service and worship.
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