By Guest Contributor

by Pastor Ed Brennan

Many years ago, I visited Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Duck River, Tennessee. My friend Donna was the pastor there and she had done a lot to keep the little country church going.

Built on a hill in 1820, Shady Grove is an old historic circuit church with a long, steep driveway. I remember it was hard for me, even then, to get up to the church. I imagined how tough it could be for someone who was elderly. At the time, some worshippers parked down below the church and walked up — something the elderly could never do.

Last August, I was fortunate enough to be assigned as the pastor of Shady Grove. For many years, a church member with a tractor would occasionally scrape the ruts on the driveway so people could come up to the church. However, it was still difficult for members to drive up to the church in their cars. Some members continued parking at the bottom of the hill and walking up to the church. Additionally, there were no designated handicap parking spaces for those who braved the steep drive up.

I remembered hearing about Golden Cross grants being awarded to help churches improve accessibly for their older members. I wanted to make accessibility one of Shady Grove’s priorities. All who came — or wanted to come — needed to feel welcome.

I knew we needed to have some skin in the game and thus church members began saving money for this worthy project. The realization that we will all get older — and many of us were already there — led to a consensus that before we could reach out from the church, we first needed to get into the church.

We had numerous bids for the project and several revisions. Once we found someone we could trust and work with —  a  local Baptist minister with his own paving company — we put our plans on paper and applied for a Golden Cross Foundation grant to help fund the project.

Led by trustees Glen Lapham and Jimmy Adler, we agreed on a vision of what was to come: a paved road going up the hill to the church with a large circle on top and handicap parking. A large cement culvert was also added to aid in drainage and ensure we would never have a washout.

Work was completed earlier this year. The handicap parking spaces allow those with mobility issues to have clear access to the church. Members who struggled to come to church, especially after or during a rain shower, are now able to come worship with confidence. They have a paved road leading up to the church, a place to park, and easy access to the building.

I want to thank the Golden Cross Foundation for helping us get this project done. Shady Grove UMC is now accessible to everyone and our numbers are growing weekly!

Pastor Ed Brannen is the pastor of Shady Grove UMC. Former pastor of Porter’s Chapel UMC, Glenn’s Chapel UMC, and Williamsport UMC, Brannen is also the former owner and manager of Helping Hands ministry in Mount Pleasant, Tennessee.