Lighthouse churches’ will help grieving congregants heal, reconnect

March 29, 2023
By Alan Wild
Just in time for Holy Week and Easter resurrection, dozens of churches in the Kentucky Annual Conference are stepping forward as “lighthouse churches” – specially equipped to welcome members of disaffiliating churches who wish to move their membership and remain in the denomination.

Bishop Leonard Fairley’s Appointive Cabinet defines lighthouse churches as “those that serve as beacons of hope and hospitality, ready to welcome all those who have been displaced in this season of transition.”

Fairley said lighthouses can be a permanent location for people, but they also can serve as just a stop on the journey. He emphasized that the conference is planning new places and worship experiences that people might find attractive. The key is giving people options for worship while the new worship expressions are developed.

“I love the Lighthouse Church initiative,” said Rev. Dr. Jay Smith, superintendent of the Owensboro District. “It seeks to fulfill the promise of our conference leadership—that we will leave no one behind who wishes to remain United Methodist in spite of the fact that their church has disaffiliated.”

Smith added: “This initiative says, ‘We see you, we love you, and we are excited to move into God’s new future with you as United Methodists in Kentucky — glory to God!’“

Rev. Dr. Iosmar Alvarez, superintendent of the Lexington District, sees lighthouse churches as places where all can find unity in mission.

“They are a place to hold onto the unique goodness and strength of our heritage as UMC, but also where we can experience a congregation uniquely equipped by the current reality to welcome those seeking a refreshed expression of Methodism that goes beyond any particular theological stance in love and truth,” Alvarez added.

Highland, which will be a lighthouse church in the Northern Kentucky District, has a tradition of being a missional and outreach church, said Rev. John Bowling – and it dovetails nicely with his personal experience coming to the UMC as a young person.

“The United Methodist Church has always been unique because it is diverse, a tapestry or mosaic of all kinds of people growing and navigating  through faith.  Not all at the same place, perhaps, but encouraging each other on the journey,” Bowling said. “I think that is why I am saddened so many congregations have chosen to disaffiliate.” He added, though that he’s  “not trifling away time in melancholy memories – I’m focused on today and tomorrow.”

Bowling said he sees this as a “time of Reformation” in the UMC. “I see and hear the people in our congregations determined to welcome new friends and stay true to our mission and be generous and hospitable. Honestly, I’m energized by it!”

Lighthouse churches will be provided guidance and resources to help them effectively minister to hurting people. For example, Highland soon will start a grief-response group to allow people to confidentially share with one another their hurts and frustrations and begin the healing process, Bowling said.

Here is a partial list, by district, of churches that have embraced the idea of being lighthouse churches, along with their addresses and (if available) their websites. Some churches are still deciding whether they are equipped to be lighthouse churches; we will add to the list as more come on board:
Bluegrass Heartland
  • Radcliff, 275 S. Woodland Drive, Radcliff, 40160
  • Christ Church, 4614 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, 40207
  • Hodgenville, 825 Tonieville Road, Hodgenville, 42748
  • St. Paul  2000 Douglass Blvd., Louisville, 40205
Kentucky East Lexington Northern Kentucky Owensboro Pennyrile  
South Central South East  

Bishop Leonard Fairley speaks to the Light in Darkness