St. Peter’s United Methodist Church celebrated 40 years serving the Wellington community on Monday, Sept. 9 with a celebratory dinner for 150 members of the congregation. The event also welcomed new Pastor Cory Britt, who started in July.
The evening featured a concert by the Gospel Truth. The all-female trio of Marlene Christopher, Mary Hubbard and Judy Lindsay serenaded the crowd after dinner was served.
The church was founded in 1979. The construction of the sanctuary began in 1980, and in 1981, 350 people attended the first worship service.
Organist Shari Wood is a longtime member of the church. She was hired to play the organ in worship services in 1982. Now retired, she recalled why she was drawn to St. Peter’s.
“We love the fellowship. We love the community. The church is our family,” Wood said. “Our children grew up with other people’s children, and there is a comradeship there. I have been involved in administration, Sunday school class and adult education. My husband and I have always been a part of the church. It is a part of our lives.”
Wood particularly likes the church’s Methodist theology. “I am invited and encouraged to think about what I do and don’t believe, what I do and don’t agree with,” she said.
The programs at St. Peter’s are extensive and impact the local community. Both youth and adult programs are grounded in caring for the connections of relationships, while serving the greater community. “We have a strong focus on the children and the youth,” Wood said. “We put a lot of time on programs at all age levels. We have the Upward Basketball program that involves far more than our youth. It involves children from all over the community.”
There are also many adult education and fellowship opportunities.
“My husband loves the United Methodist Men,” Wood said. “They get together for dinner every month, and it’s men from all over the community, not just St. Peter’s members.”
The church’s women, meanwhile, come together every Wednesday evening to meet, pray and study. Building Better Moms meets every Thursday morning. The Prayer Shawl ministry meets every Wednesday evening, where they knit and crochet shawls.
Three separate worship services are held on Sunday. The first and third services are more traditional where traditional hymns are offered. These services use a choir and an organ. The middle service is a contemporary service, which is more upbeat with a piano and a band.
Ken Treadwell and his family joined St. Peter’s in 1981. He loves the many programs that are unique to the church.
“St. Peter’s has been focused on youth since the early days. We have had a stellar reputation over the years with the St. Peter’s Child Enrichment Center,” Treadwell said. “There was a time before electronic sign-up that parents would camp out in order to get slots for the new year. This emphasis on youth has been carried over through the years.”
The Child Enrichment Center was established in 1984. The accredited preschool programs and activities prepare children for kindergarten. There are programs for children ages two to four that offer enrichment programs in music, Spanish and biblical lessons.
The church’s outreach programs extend into the community. For example, the congregation works closely with CROS Ministries, which stands for Christians Reaching Out to Society and offers seven pantries that supply food to the hungry in Palm Beach and Martin counties.
“There are many members from the church, like me, who are active with this ministry,” Treadwell said. “The church has a huge box in the back of the church where people can bring buy-one-get-one-free items and drop them off. This gets delivered to the Lake Worth pantry on a weekly basis. There are other members of the church who go to the warehouse and deliver food two or three days a week to the various pantries. They also help collect food for the Palm Beach County Food Bank and Feeding South Florida.”
David Boyer, chairman of the staff parish, has been a member of the church for the last 15 years.
“What makes St. Peter’s different is we have had the opportunity to have long-term pastors at the church over the last 40 years,” Boyer said.
The church has had five pastors since its founding. Rev. John Denmark saw to the early ministry of the church from 1978 to 1984. Rev. Dr. Douglas Kirk led the church from 1984 to 1992, followed by Rev. Dr. Rainer Richter, the longest-serving pastor, who led St. Peter’s from 1992 to 2015. Rev. Dr. Mark Caldwell served as pastor from 2015 until earlier this year. In July, Rev. Cory Britt took the reins.
“Cory is a great guy,” Boyer said. “I think he is going to do a lot for our church.
Britt grew up in Jacksonville and was heavily involved in his church’s youth group ministry. He was small in stature and shy, but he met others in the youth group, and this helped him to gain courage and discover his self-worth. He loved music, played piano and bass guitar, and later began playing in a band.
“In the summers, we would travel around Florida and play concerts for youth and church groups. I just really loved the work we would do,” Britt said. “When I graduated from high school, I moved to Nashville, hoping to get into the Christian music industry.”
Britt went to Belmont University, a private Christian liberal arts university in Nashville, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in religion. After this, he worked for BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) and was a part-time youth director at a Presbyterian church. He soon felt the calling to become a pastor.
“I loved that [youth director job] instead of the job that actually paid my bills,” Britt recalled. “Engaging with youth and creating a space where they can discover who they are.”
In 1999, he entered Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, noting that he was drawn to becoming a pastor because it had all aspects of using the very best parts of himself.
“I never thought I wanted to be a pastor. I had a few examples of pastors I liked. But pastors didn’t seem connected. They seemed kind of corporate and stuffy. That’s just not for me. I was always anti-authoritarian; I would do my own thing,” Britt said. “But I discovered that by being a pastor, I can connect with people, not just in the church.”
He explained how he was encouraged to go outside the church and meet people where they are in their lives without judgment.
“I share what God was doing in my life and share what God was doing in their life,” he said. “I like communicating this on a weekly basis. I love the art of preaching, and taking complicated things and making it simple, palatable and bringing stories alive.”
St. Peter’s United Methodist Church is located at 12200 W. Forest Hill Blvd. in Wellington. To learn more about the church, visit www.stpeters-umc.org.