The Rev. Gregory H. Herndon gets to take it a little easy on Sunday, Sept. 22.
One of his predecessors as minister at Epworth United Methodist Church on Karl Road, the Rev. Cyndy Garn, now of the Worthington United Methodist Church, will lead the 10:30 a.m. service that morning.
There also will be a 4:30 p.m. service, but again, Herndon won't have to handle the main duties. That's because Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church will be leading that service.
Epworth United Methodist is turning 50, and events Sept. 22 marking the milestone will also include a mortgage-burning ceremony and a dinner. All living previous pastors will be in attendance.
"This was the only church north of Linden," longtime member Herb Crites, 87, recalled last week in the minister's office. "This was all farmland here. There were no homes, nothing on this side of the street. You could look as far north as you could and see nothing."
Herndon, the ninth minister in the half-century history of Epworth UM, took the post in July 2010.
"It's an exciting feeling," he said of preparing for the anniversary observation. "I'm constantly, daily, becoming aware of the history of the church. The sense of community has always been a legacy of the church.
"My predecessor had done an excellent job, and my role was to just build on what Pat Miller had done."
Crites, although not one of the 13 charter members of what became Epworth United Methodist Church, said he and his wife, Emily, hosted some of the fledgling congregation's early meetings in their Forest Park West home, which they moved to in March 1963.
"I have a little bit to brag about," he said.
He and Emily, along with another couple, started the first Methodist Youth Fellowship group at the church.
Dick Smith, also of Forest Park West, has been a member at Epworth since 1965. His late mother, Dorothy Smith, was one of the original members, but at the time, he was playing basketball for a different Methodist church.
Dick Smith designed the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary and has provided the cover art for church bullets since the 1980s.
"My mother wasn't here to see this," he said of Epworth UM turning 50. "She would have burst her buttons, as she used to say."
Smith also volunteered, along with the wife of then-minister Ron Payne, to launch a day care center at Epworth United Methodist Church that's still operating.
"That was fun," he said. "I did that 13 or 14 years."
"Church is very important to me," Carmen Bagley said.
The former Northland resident, who now lives in Westerville, joined with her ex-husband in 1970. Both of her daughters were baptized at Epworth, and she is a past leader of the youth group.
"It's a family," Bagley said. "It's always been very family-oriented. I think I stay here for the people. The ministers come and go, and they've all brought something different."
"This church is doing a wonderful job in the community," Crites offered.
"The older ones here are about as active as the younger ones, maybe more so," Bagley commented.
"Right here in the church, I don't think we've got a whole lot of people, but they all have things that they do," Smith said.
Epworth has 142 members, according to its website, but the food pantry served 659 households in 2012 and the church has sponsored a mission team in Nicaragua for the past four years.
"We've been a very mission-oriented church throughout the years," Bagley said.
Since assuming the ministry at Epworth, Herndon said he has tried to instill five basic goals for the church and its members:
* Radiant hospitality
* Passionate worship
* Intentional faith development
* Risk-taking mission and service
* Extravagant generosity
"That would be the core of our expression of ministry," Herndon said.
The mortgage being burned on Sept. 22 is for one of the additions to the original church, which was consecrated on Feb. 8, 1967. Other mortgages for the first building and some other additions have been torched before, according to Crites.
"We've had our little fires," he said.
In the beginning ... Church's founding recounted online
From the website of Epworth United Methodist Church:
"It was a bitterly cold Friday night, Jan. 25, 1963, typically winter, but an uncommon start to the weekend. Tonight, Leo and Gerry Mason were hosts to 13 people in their house, a group destined for creation for it was about to create a new Methodist church in north Columbus.
"For months, (the) Rev. Don Grant and other Methodist officials had toiled to reach this point. On Aug. 21, 1962, the Methodist Church bought 5.5 acres of farmland adjacent to Karl Road. Now, the first steps of life were under way for Epworth Methodist Church. (The) Rev. Grant became the first Epworth minister June 8, 1963. Later on June 30, worship services began in the brand new Brookhaven High School. The following October, the congregation began meeting at Valley Forge Elementary School.
"Finally, all of the phone calls, contacts, and planning reached a pinnacle on Nov. 24, 1963, the day Epworth was officially organized and constituted. In the beginning, membership was 130 people, but just 18 months later it jumped to 340.
"The original church building at 5100 Karl Road was consecrated Feb. 8, 1967. The building comprised a worship space and an education wing. In the mid-1990s, planning started for the addition of a new worship center, which was constructed and in use by the end of the century. As the 21st century began, the early visions of Epworth Church were now complete and ready to be fully in service to the Northland community through the Gospels of Jesus Christ.
"As a community of faith, Epworth has always been a 'church at the edge,' a willing partner in the struggles of Northland and the world. The year 2013 marks 50 years of loving God and loving others for the thousands of people who walked through Epworth's doors and heeded the call of Jesus Christ: 'Follow me.' "