Faith United Methodist like a second family for congregation

vmannix@bradenton.comFebruary 18, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Marlene Green thinks of Faith United Methodist Church as more than a place of worship.

So do Marge and Fred Mack.

Pastor Gary Eldred, too.

“This place is our family,” said Green, a member for 24 1/2 years. “I remember when I was fairly new to the area. I’d been in another church and had not been embraced. I visited this church and was just taken in.”

Her words resonated with the Macks, who helped found the church and are among its original 40 members, as well as Eldred.

“One of our greatest strengths is -- people say we are a friendly church,” the pastor said. “We go out of our way to welcome new people.”

That quality will be celebrated Feb. 26 when the church, at 7215 First Ave. W., observes its 25th anniversary.

“It doesn’t seem possible it’s been 25 years,” Marge Mack said.

They were members at Trinity United Methodist on Manatee Avenue West in the 1980s when the idea about starting another Methodist church in Northwest Bradenton began to take shape.

“Trinity was growing to the point it didn’t have space,” said Eldred, who has been Faith’s pastor the past 3 1/2 years and been in the ministry 30 years overall.

“It was either build something new or add a balcony at the old church,” Marge Mack said.

Northwest Bradenton was a natural location.

“There was a lot of building out there and the land was going to be donated, so it worked out well,” Fred Mack said.

The new congregation met at Palma Sola Elementary School while the church was under construction.

That it sits at the end of a dead end street has been a mixed blessing.

“Because we’re out of the way, kids feel safe,” Fred Mack said. “It’s nice in a way.”

The location also makes the church somewhat off the beaten path, a few blocks east of busy 75th Street.

“We’re invisible,” Eldred said. “So we have to be friendly and invite people to come. I ask them, ‘Why are you joining Faith? What’s so attractive.’ They say, ‘People are friendly.’ That’s our strong point.”

Faith has about 220 congregants and their worship service is a combination of traditional and contemporary with musical accompaniment.

“We have a man on drums, a little of the bells and whistles, but we sing choruses as well as old traditional hymns. It’s a blend,” Eldred said.

What’s more, one of Faith’s new members has a drama background in drama and will produce skits from which the pastor will preach.

“We are a traditional church in that we love on each other, care for each other,” Eldred said. “That’s what it’s about.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055.

IF YOU GO

What: Faith United Methodist Church

Where: 7217 First Ave. W., Bradenton

When: Sunday Son-Up Worship Service, 8 a.m.; Sunday School for Everyone, 9 a.m.; Celebration Worship Service, 10:15 a.m.

Information: Call 794-8067 or visit faithchurch@verizon.net.

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