December 08, 2022 | by JB Brayfindley
Editor's note: Go, Sow, Grow is a prayer initiative that launched early in 2022 in which local churches were invited to pray for one another in order to align our prayers for God's vision of growth and abundance to manifest among us. As a companion to that prayer ministry, we will be reaching out to circuits across our 5 districts to develop short profiles on the ministry of our local churches and include links for more information and how to get involved. Together, we are the church. #BeUMC
Mid-Valley Circuit extends more than 83 miles north and south containing rural communities and cities located in the northern Sacramento Valley. The circuit includes churches off Interstate 5 between Arbuckle and Red Bluff and extends east to churches in Chico on Highway 99 and Oroville on Highway 70.
“Something I initiated is that we go meet in the different communities,” states Rev. Scott Allred, Circuit Leader for the Mid-Valley Circuit encompassing 13 different churches. Circuit meetings are held once a month at 11:30 a.m. over lunch alternating locations between parishes. During the Camp Fire the churches came together to help one another, “but for the most part, the main purpose of our circuit, when we get together, is to pray for one another,” explains Allred.
Mid-Valley Circuit includes four churches in the Tehama United Methodist Cooperative Parish served by pastor Thomas Cota and several Certified Lay Ministers. The churches include Cone Community, El Camino, Los Molinos Community and Red Bluff First UMC. The churches collaborate on many endeavors including participating in the Food For The Hungry Food Bank, a bagged lunch program for children at the end of every summer for two weeks, providing once-a-month food boxes (and currently filling Thanksgiving boxes) and working alongside Salvation Army on various projects. The parish participated in the Tehama County Orchard Festival where they signed up children for a countywide Vacation Bible School slated for next summer according to pastor Cota. As a parish, each church rotates worship service and message responsibilities between lay and clergy. The messages are recorded and uploaded to the parish website for those who cannot attend in person worship.
Rev. Scott Allred serves Chico Aldersgate UMC in the suburbs of Chico, CA emphasizing Bible Study and a worship experience with hymns and contemporary music in a blended musical format featuring a Praise Team and Chancel choir. Both the messages and music recordings are available separately online. Also, the church participates in a ministry with Folsom Prison inmates through the Kairos Prison Ministry International. After two years of COVID and no in person gatherings, the church plans to host its Annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
Chico Trinity UMC in downtown Chico is served by Rev. David Vallelunga and emphasizes small group involvement to connect people to one another and to the love of God. “We are a progressive church that loves music, social justice, and a traditional worship service,” states Vallelunga on the church website. Music groups include children, chimes, ukuleles, and adult singers; small groups include Bible studies, Missions, Youth, LGBTQ+, UMW and prayer chain. Trinity partners with Habitat for Humanity. UMW funds were recently raised to support local non-profits. An advent series is underway with special worship services for Christmas.
Orland Federated led by Pastor Scott Gessford participated the community Harvest Festival sponsored by the area ministerial association. “Events like these are one way to show the people of our city the love of Christ,” states Gessford. The church also recently celebrated 9 lives during a special All Saints Day service. An Advent series will start on Sunday and Thursday nights. The church also holds regular events such as a Men’s Breakfast, Bible Studies, choir rehearsals and worship services.
Pastor Cheng Yang serves Oroville First UMC which has both English and Hmong language services with a joint Communion Service on the first Sundays of the month. The church is currently recycling for Heifer Project, participating in seasonal food drives, wrapping Christmas baskets and recently held their 92nd annual Turkey Dinner.
Maxwell UMC is served by the retired Rev. Terry DeLand. Due to the drought and water restrictions, the church has begun to work with the Ministerial Association of Colusa County on a food assistance program for farmers and farm workers in the area. The church has been hosting a breakfast once-a-month on the second Sunday before church service.
Retired Rev. John McCorkell serves Arbuckle and Williams Parkside United Methodist Churches. Williams UMC have 3rd and 4th generation members thoroughly committed to the work in their community including hosting an annual community meal. Arbuckle UMC focuses on mutual love and support. “People say they have felt more love in this church than any they have ever attended,” states McCorkell. During the pandemic, both churches attended a joint Zoom worship service.
“Like the Fall colors, Trinity had a lively Fall!” states pastor Molly Knappen, new this year to Colusa Trinity UMC. Trinity continues ecumenical and community efforts including serving meals with the Hands Up community, providing the Tuesday rotation of serving daily lunches with area churches and hosting a Community Christmas Concert rehearsals and performances. “In support of a sermon series exploring spiritual practices, Trinity added a temporary labyrinth to the Friendship Hall,” states Knappen noting that all members of the community and area churches have been invited to a walk on Saturday, December 3rd. Trinity members will be continuing their tradition of delivering Christmas meals to those unable to come to the church. The church is adding a second support group to their Wesleyan Covenant group after completing a six week “Growing in Faith” study. This month will also add an Advent Scripture study.
Worship is the primary focus at First UMC of Willows, according to pastor David Rieck. The church works with the Willows Ministerial Association voucher system and local food bank to help those in need in the community. They also join in a cooperative Vacation Bible School and support missions through the United Methodist Church as well as Wings of Eagles.