When the Rev. Victoria Starnes assumed her pastoral duties a year ago at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach she commented about how she felt about leading a “congregation that has made a place for all God’s children.” Her goal was to use her passions for “planning creative worship, preaching, coaching and developing leadership skills” to help Epworth continue to grow as a “21st century church.”
“It is wonderful to be a part of a church that already knows the meaning of mission - a church that already practices Christ’s commandment to 'love your neighbor as yourself',” said Starnes. Together with Associate Pastor Rev. Dr. Patricia Loughlin, Starnes chose “Lessons from the Garden” as the theme for this year’s Lent and Easter services.
“It is very special to be a part of Epworth as we walk the 40 days of Lent,” said Starnes. “Spring is the season for gardening and growing things - especially our faith!” Each Sunday she and Loughlin focus on a different aspect of gardening (soil, water, sun, pruning, fertilizing, and sharing the bounty) and relate it to how to grow in faith. Epworth has its own vegetable garden and flowerbeds.
Tended to by Epworth congregation members, the vegetable bounty is shared in its Sunday Soup Kitchen and the Tuesday meals for international students. “Jesus used images of the garden and farm all the time - to teach his followers about faith and life with God…so gardening can serve as an image for learning about how to grow our faith,” said Starnes.
“As a minister for over 25 years, I am accustomed to the rhythm of the Christian year and calendar in the life of the church. Summers are slower and snowy winters give you time to regroup and plan ahead," she said. But Starnes quickly realized that at Epworth there is no slow time. She found that in the summer Sundays were very busy hosting visiting worshippers and the weeks were occupied with hosting the international students every Tuesday evening for dinner. This winter, one of the snowiest and coldest on record, did not offer time to regroup and plan ahead - instead, Epworth found itself offering shelter to the homeless through their facility and the Faith United Methodist building.
“During this past winter, we learned a lot about the people we serve and about ourselves as a congregation,” said Starnes. Before I came here I was very much aware of Epworth’s commitment to those in need - but to actually experience it has been a true blessing.”
As a final thought on her first year as Epworth’s senior pastor, Starnes said, “Epworth is a church alive with resurrection faith and opportunities for ministry. I am so blessed to be a part of this church as we walk these days of Lent and prepare to celebrate the touchstone of our faith - the resurrection of Jesus - on Easter Sunday.”