Reverend Thom Street of the First United Methodist Church. (Submitted photo/Lewis Perkins)
Originally from Ohio, Reverend Thom Street has been appointed by the bishop to Shepard the First United Methodist Church of Immokalee’s one hundred and ten parishioners. The church was founded in 1952 and would meet in the movie theater. Eventually a wooden frame building was built so that the church would have a sanctuary, which later became the pastor’s house, and then to a brick building. Today the church is located at 401 N 9th St, Immokalee, FL 34142. After he became a pastor, he had to move around three times. This not only required him to meet new people and learn new names, his son had to attend different schools. His favorite aspect of being senior pastor is working with the congregation as a team to enhance the ministry. “I can’t do it all myself, I need the lay people…” In order to help decide what would be the best way for the church to serve the community, he looked at the church’s Mission statement: “Becoming Faithful Disciples of Jesus Christ making a difference in our Community”, their Vision statement: “Bringing Hope Now...Changing Lives Forever”, and their Motto: “To Know Christ and To Make HIM Known”. A big part of this outreach is through their sign in front of the church which always has an inspirational message. “Sometimes I get the ideas, (for the sign), from other churches and sometimes things will come to me… It’s kind of neat how the sign has brought a lot of attention to us… Some people in town look forward to driving by and looking what I put on the sign.” Pastor Thom further states that when some of his members are on vacation they tell him about church signs that have inspired them. Pastor Thom further states: “Look for inspiration wherever you can find it.” The church reaches out to the community by offering programs such as Noah’s Attic, a program that helps purchase school uniforms for children as well as providing clothing , diapers and formula for people in the community with children. The Carpenter’s Cupboard is a food pantry ministry. “We’ve teamed up with the Harry Chapin Food Bank people and we try to feed as many people as we can.” This ministry is opened every Wednesday and gets its primary donations from church members and some help from other churches in the surrounding areas. On Friday nights they offer a Recovery Ministry for people struggling with addictions. “We have a special Bible called the ‘Recovery Bible’ that we give to people who participate in this program.” Although this program is a twelve step program, “it is not the same as AA (or NA)… it’s faith based.” When asked about how he motivates his new members, Pastor Thom replied: “We encourage them to find their ministry, (calling), and we help them get involved in their ministry.” In order to help them begin their journey, Pastor Thom gives members a Spiritual Gifted Test. This test helps determine what gifts God has given a person and where they are on their spiritual journey. Pastor Thom gives new members the resources to develop these talents so they can serve the community and grow a stronger relationship to God. Furthermore, during the school year, the church offers a program called “Wonderful Wednesdays”. “We have kids start coming as soon as they get out of school. We have a time of worship that’s geared specifically for them and (then) we feed them dinner and after that we break off into different bible studies according to (a child’s) age group.” The children that participate tell their friends helping this ministry grow. Pastor Thom states that his greatest inspiration is Jesus Christ. “He’s the one who set the bar for us, the one who we try to emulate… Beyond that, it’s John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. He never intended to start a new church, rather he was trying to start a revival within the church of England, but when the revolutionary war broke out the church of England withdrew all of their priest so he, (John Wesley), ended up ordaining a couple of bishops, and they ordained pastors. What started out as a movement within the Church of England, ended up becoming the Methodist church here in America.” Pastor Thom invites anyone from the community to participate in Holy Communion. “You don’t have to be a member, or a certain age to receive Communion.” The church is open to anyone who wishes to celebrate the sacrifice that Christ gave to all of us.