From New York to California and North Carolina to Pennsylvania, Patrick Elmore has ministered all over the country. But, since he landed in Plant City just two months ago as Springhead United Methodist Church’s new pastor, he has developed some big plans for the small, but growing, congregation.
Elmore attended Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. His work has required him to travel all around the United States. In 2001, he and his wife were living in Manhattan.
“You could see the Twin Towers from our apartment,” Elmore said.
His wife was at the World Trade Center when the 9/11 attacks occurred. She got out of the building safely but did not feel comfortable in New York City after that.
The couple had a getaway home in Florida, and in 2002, they decided to move permanently to the Sunshine State. Elmore ministered in Crystal River and Arcadia before moving to Plant City to begin his position at Springhead July 1.
Elmore has not wasted any time since he transitioned into the new job. He got straight to work, forming goals for the church and its congregation.
The church building is 75 years old, and Elmore hopes to revitalize it. He said even small updates, such as signage, can make a big difference, and making the entire building handicap-accessible is critical.
But, Elmore’s biggest focus is on the people of the church and their neighbors.
“I’m big on community service,” he said. “I’m obsessed with it, almost.
“I believe that the church should not be closed. The church should not open on Sunday at 9:45 for Sunday school, close at 1, and not reopen again until Wednesday for Bible study or choir practice. The church, in my view, should be the center of the community.”
For the church to become the center of the community, Elmore said should meet the needs of the people, or be able to direct them to another place that can do so.
“No preacher should ever say to someone who comes to him for help, ‘I can’t help you,’ and end it right there,” Elmore said. “He should be able to say, ‘I can’t help you, but I know where you can get some help.’”
Springhead directly distributes emergency food to those who need it, but Elmore said it is important for the church to be able to point people to a resource where they can get food on a regular basis. Members of the church have discussed offering computer-literacy classes, but Elmore wants to take it a step further and teach computer-repair techniques, which might help adults settle into related jobs.
Under Elmore’s leadership, the church also will offer classes for ESL and ESOL, GED and possibly United States citizenship. And, he said, Spanish classes for English speakers cannot be overlooked.
“I cannot expect to find you sitting in a pew on Sunday, waiting to hear what I have to say about ‘Thus says the Lord,’ if you’re hungry, you have no place to sleep tonight, you don’t have clean clothes to wear, you don’t have a job to go to, or you don’t speak the language that I’m speaking,” Elmore said.
In addition to being able to serve people from a variety of backgrounds, Elmore wants to prepare the church to serve people of a variety of ages. Most of the congregation is elderly, but church leaders are working on developing programs for youth and young families.
“We have childcare rooms, so what does that say? It says to me that those rooms need to be full,” Elmore said.
Bible studies with different themes will move Springhead toward this diverse ideal. Every Thursday, a group meets to discuss the importance of different women in the Bible. Another Bible study focuses on “time travel,” helping group members understand what it would be like to live in the times and places of the Bible.
“We’re presenting it in a way that will, hopefully, get people’s interest, captivate them. Something they can enjoy and take back to somebody else,” Elmore said.
Elmore is not only a full-time pastor, but also he is also a journalist and photographer.
“Photography has been a hobby forever,” he said. “I was probably in my late teens when I developed an interest in taking pictures.”
At one time, he went on a trip to numerous cities to search for interesting church signs to photograph.
While Elmore was working at a college in Pennsylvania, a local publication invited him to write a weekly column, which sparked his interest in journalistic writing. He writes for The Arcadian, manages a blog called “The Patrick Report” and almost never leaves home without his camera and press pass.
To get Springhead pointed in the direction he would like, Elmore knows he can’t rely on solely his own strengths.
“The thing that has been so exciting about coming here has been the people that I’ve found in this church,” he said. “They are so motivated and they want to do whatever it takes to realize the dream of this utopia that I’m talking about.”
Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].