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A transformation for Cooleemee Methodist

COOLEEMEE – This town and surrounding community have a special place in the heart of the Rev. Darren Crotts.

Crotts, pastor of Smith Grove United Methodist Church, grew up near Cooleemee and attended elementary school there. He remembers well V.G. Prim and his paddle.

So when he heard the local Methodist church was closing, Crotts’ mind went into action.

The result: The Bridge @ 197 Main.

After hearing that the dwindling congregation at Cooleemee Methodist could no longer support the church, he took the issue to his congregation. It was an unanimous vote to merge Cooleemee with Smith Grove.

“We want this to be a place for the community, and we ain’t going nowhere,” Crotts said.

A sign has been erected, and church members are busy “fixing up” the church and grounds.

On Thursdays, beginning Sept. 10,  there will be a farmer’s market from 3-7 p.m. at the Cooleemee site, and free meals will be distributed at 7. All will be outdoors, with an area for prayer, and a message given away with each meal.

The Bridge will offer free WiFi, and volunteers are working on plans for regular student tutoring at the site.

He isn’t sure how the sanctuary will be used, but Smith Grove isn’t against other churches without a home signing on for the Cooleemee space.

“We all wanted to do this,” he said of his congregation at Smith Grove. “We’ve got some good ideas and want to get the community involved to see what we can provide for them.”

About 80 members of the community responded to a survey.

Randy Boger is helping with the re-furbishing of the property. He said you can feel the history while walking through the church. “It’s still in good shape, and we’re going to get it back to where it is nice,” he said. “We’re going to make it look good.”

The sign features three gray pillars, depicting the Holy Trinity. “The foundation in God stands as the support for our bridge,” said a description on Smith Grove’s website. “God our Creator has made us for such a time as this. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, has shown us through his life of example how to reach out into community. The Holy Spirit will guide us through its power of presence and wisdom.”

The two blue swirls represent: “A place to belong, a place to matter.” “Much like the traveling surface of a bridge, belonging and mattering are the ways in which we will cross over to build relationships in the name of Jesus. Belonging and Mattering will also serve as the community reaching back to us as we bridge the divisions of life together. The journey of the bridge depends on these.”