Archive for Thursday, August 3, 2006

Pastor takes over Eudora United Methodist Church at historic juncture

August 3, 2006

The moment was both surreal and a blessing.

The Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff held a shovel and drove it into the damp ground in a field south of Kansas Highway 10. His current flock at Eudora United Methodist Church surrounded him. Next to him were the pastors who served the church before him.

At that moment, July 9, DeGreeff broke ground on what will be a new Eudora United Methodist Church complex. Although he had only served the congregation two weeks, he knew he was leading a spiritual blessing over the culmination of years of work.

"It was so exciting, so thrilling, but also sort of surreal," DeGreeff said.

He knew the waiting, energy and work his congregation had put into the project before him.

"It was surreal because these people came before me and planted the seeds. They nurtured them and watered them," DeGreeff said. "Now they were seeing the fruits of their work, and I felt very blessed all these people before me had done all this work."

Now as construction is set to begin on the new facility, DeGreeff sits between two churches. The congregation's church ---- on the corner of Seventh and Church streets ---- prepares for its final service. It was sold to a private citizen.

His office is currently in a rented house on Spruce Street. Boxes fill nearly half of the room ---- signs of his church's impending move.

He feels well prepared for the transition, he said.

"I really think everything I've done has prepared me for this challenge," DeGreeff said.

DeGreeff came to Eudora after spending seven years at Pleasant Hill Methodist Church. Before that, he was a campus minister for a year at Kansas University.

His call to God came after a period of spiritual wandering, he said. He grew up in the Roman Catholic Church yet fell away because he felt it didn't relate to him.

He was diagnosed with cancer, which he eventually defeated.

"That really sent me looking for answers to all the big questions," DeGreeff said.

He studied Hinduism, Judaism and

Taoism as he earned a degree in religious studies at KU.

His call came when he attended Lawrence United Methodist Church.

"I really felt a strong call to start ministering and I responded to the call," DeGreeff said.

It took him by surprise, he said. He'd heard preachers speak of their "calling" but it never really resonated with him until he found the Lawrence church.

"Honestly, you do it because you know it's what you're supposed to be doing," DeGreeff said. "Honestly, I just love being a pastor."

In the years leading up to his appointment as pastor at Eudora, DeGreeff studied churches in growth ---- helping him feel at home at his current job.

"I'm just thrilled to be here," DeGreeff said. "I'm just so charmed by this little town. I j hope we're here for a long time."

As he settles, he uses his experience to continue his church's labor of love.

"We're giving birth to a new thing, and birth has grieving pains," DeGreeff said.

Among the pains for Eudora United Methodist Church will be leaving a church behind where services have taken place for 80 years, and waiting for the new one to be built.

The church will have a historical service "Through the Years" at 10 a.m. Sunday. The community is invited to attend.

"There are so many gifted leaders in this congregation that I think the people will respond to the challenge," DeGreeff said. "That's what I think is so neat."

In the time between the closing of the church on Seventh Street and the opening of the new complex, the church will have its services at Warren-McElwain Mortuary/Eudora Chapel on East 10th Street, and DeGreeff will continue to use his office on Spruce Street. Services at Eudora Chapel will begin Aug. 13.

The change will soon be summed up in the metaphor of a butterfly the church will use to promote itself during the construction period.

"The butterfly is the church, but for the next six months, we're in the cocoon," DeGreeff said

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