By Sue Moore
“Strong churches make for strong communities,” said Pastor Greg Culver, the new minister at Vicksburg United Methodist Church. “We’re in the hub of the community as a beacon of light for Vicksburg. Our location is part of the core values of this congregation. They elected to stay in the heart of the village and serve the community from the inside.”
“There is a lot going on in this building, allowing it to be a community center to bring people together. There is even more opportunity for that. VUMC is a house of prayer for all people who want to find their God-given purpose. There are faithful people here who love Christ and his church and who want to do more outreach for sharing the good news. There are a lot of hurting people in this community and we need to serve them,” Culver said.
“It is not easy to be a true Christian. Our culture has made it too easy. We should be honest about the challenge. Millennials want to be challenged and have something bigger than themselves to commit their lives to. This starts with us older folks letting down our guard, being authentic, and admit that we all actually need a Savior,” Culver noted. “All are welcome to God’s table. The Lord is not prejudicial: black or white, liberal or conservative, young or old, gay or straight. We are all broken people who need to repent of our idols. The vitriol of condescension in the public discourse has been heartbreaking. The Bible is a love story. Never does it not give us license to be mean to others.”
“We are all on a great journey, just at different places along the way of Jesus. No thing or no issue will stop me from trying to relate with others and asking the so-called other to please pray for me — a sinner.” said Culver.
Culver succeeds Dr. Buff Coe who pastored the Vicksburg church for 17 years. The new pastor moved with his family of four children ages 12, 10, 8 and 5 to Vicksburg church from Charlevoix where he served for the past seven years. His family is settling into a home in Scotts near Tobey Elementary School where three of the children will attend.
Culver, 52, gave his first Sunday sermon on July 2. He previously served United Methodist churches in Frankfort-Elberta for eight years and Muskegon for four years. His wife, Joanne, is a physical therapist and was employed by Munson Hospital before the move to Vicksburg. “This has been a big transition for our children and they are anxious to make new friends,” Culver said.
Middleville was home to Culver until the 8th grade when his family moved to Grand Rapids. “I am a cradle Methodist. Church runs deep in my family, but I still wrestled with God. My life changed in February 1992 when my mother was critically injured in a car accident. This incident caused me to take personal inventory in my relationship with Christ and his church.” Culver had an eye on teaching and graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in history, followed by a master’s in history from Western Michigan University. Shortly after he attended Drew Theological School in Madison, N.J., where he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree.
“You have to love what you do to be in ministry. It is a privilege to go to a bedside in a moment of need, hold a hand, and pray. It is all about God’s love. My family and I are excited to be in Vicksburg for this next stage in our life. Before we got married, I promised Joanne that I would never be a better pastor than a husband and father. The people at the Vicksburg church have stated their commitment to help me honor these three roles. There is a shared understanding that all kids need their parents’ presence and attention. I like to tell our kids stories and listen to their own. We play together and they show me that what appears ordinary is actually holy. I think the folks at the Vicksburg church understand that imagination and creativity modeled by children will help us all to be better Christians who are open to new adventures.”
Vicksburg United Methodist Church will shift its single Sunday service from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., starting Sept. 10, the Sunday after Labor Day. Sunday School will start at 9 a.m., end at 9:45.