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Where we worship: Hardin Methodist church's purpose is to reach out
LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff The Rev. Edward Folkwein pauses in the United Methodist Church in Hardin where he is pastor. Members of the congregation are very active in the Hardin community and with supporting missionary work.

Gazette Staff

HARDIN — The congregation of the United Methodist Church in Hardin opens its building and its heart to people in that community.

"Each May and June, the Migrant Council of Billings operates a satellite clinic for seasonal farm workers from the basement of the church," says the Rev. Edward H. Folkwein, senior pastor of the Methodist church. "This clinic provides preventive health education and medical services."

The office of Big Horn Hospice is located in the church, Folkwein says, and its board meetings are held here regularly.

"Big Horn Hospice also uses the church for grief support meetings and caregiver support meetings," he says.

The congregation supports the local Helping Hands food bank with monthly donations and members also volunteer their time. The church also sends hats, mittens, scarves and gloves to the Blackfeet Mission in Montana and donations to the Heart Butte Church on the Blackfeet Mission.

"Although we are small in number, this congregation is very mission oriented," Folkwein says. Here are other facts he shared about the long-time Hardin church, at 122 W. Fifth St.:

Contact the church: By phone: (406)665-2241; by e-mail: ahum@imt.net

Church affiliations: Yellowstone Conference of the United Methodist Church (all of Montana, parts of northern Wyoming and two churches in Idaho); Denver Area (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado); Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

Size of congregation: 63 members; average weekly worship attendance of 25

Service days and times: Sunday worship at 11 a.m.; summer worship 10 a.m. beginning June 8. Sunday school and youth group at 9:30 a.m. during school year.

Other regular gatherings: United Methodist Women meet the third Tuesday of the month for mission study, planning and fellowship.

How the church is involved in the community: In addition to what's mentioned above, we house youth groups from out of state on their way to mission trips; support the Intermountain Children's Home in Helena through donations and collecting special items; support of United Methodist campus ministry through special donations and host worship teams and campus pastors as preachers.

Give a brief history of the church: The first worship service was conducted by the Rev. C.E. Fenton from Forsyth on June 28, 1914. Fenton returned to organize 30 charter members of the Hardin Methodist Episcopal Church on July 3. The first Sunday school classes were held in the Sullivan Hall on July 12, and the Rev. George Mecklenberg from Billings preached the next Sunday.

During 1916 a basement was constructed on the lots at the southwest corner of North Crow Avenue and Fifth Avenue West with the intention to build a church on this foundation. The roof on the basement was completed and the basement was furnished for services. This basement church was dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 22, 1916. A parsonage was built on the lots south of the basement church while the Rev. George Carter was pastor.

After the merger of several Methodist groups in 1931, the corporate name of the church was changed to The First Methodist Church of Hardin, Montana. Another major change came in 1968. The Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to become the United Methodist Church.

How is your church funded?: We are funded from the donations of our members and constituents. Our budget is $50,000 annually.

Tell about programs unique to your church: A willingness to assist is one of our assets. We have ministered to travelers and street people by providing an occasional meal and overnight shelter through the Hardin Ministers' Association.

Biggest success your congregation has had in the past year: Our success is providing meaningful worship settings that include a changing visual dressing of our altar almost weekly. We have had a fountain with running water surrounded by a rock garden during Lent, a collection of hats and headgear to celebrate Labor Day, and the rough wooden cross hanging for our Easter celebration.

Biggest challenge your congregation faces: It's for a congregation of older folks to discern God's intention to evangelize and reach out to younger folks while maintaining a ministry to the elders.

Give one piece of advice that has helped you, as a pastor, succeed and one pitfall to avoid: Gosh, this is a tough one. I think the best advice I've received came from a more experienced pastor. He said something like, keep doing God's work even when adversity comes your way.

And a pitfall to avoid: Always make time for yourself and family. Take the days off and vacation. As pastors, it's far too easy to get trapped with "always being available."

How has your church changed in the past five years?: During the past five years or so it has become more difficult for this small membership church to pay the cost of a full-time, experienced pastor. Health insurance costs continually increase and cause most of the difficulty, besides the aging and dying of our elder members.

Plans your congregation has for the next five years: This congregation will be assessing how it can be in service to God through Jesus Christ within their capabilities and dreams. The low numbers of young people make it difficult to plan programs. I believe this congregation has a special ministry for Hardin and the surrounding area. It is yet to be discovered.

Title, subject of a favorite recent sermon: One of my favorite sermons is based on the theme of pursuing peace and justice. I believe a main theme of Jesus' teachings was getting along with each other. Our penchant for violence gets in the way and prevents us from "loving our enemy" and forgiving each other.

Favorite hymn: I have always cherished the hymn, "This Is My Song." Its words say, "This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine; but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine."

Favorite scripture: I especially like Romans 12:1,2. This is a favorite because it calls each of us to total commitment to God. And that we are to be different than the society in which we live. We are to be changed by using our brains to think and discern what God's intentions for us — as individuals and as people in society — are to be and do as disciples of Christ.

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