Pastor Alanna McGuinn SEM '20 at an outdoor, socially-distanced service of the Capon Bridge United Methodist Church. McGuinn preaches at four churches in this area of West Virginia, including Central United Methodist Church, which was recently presented with the One Matters award from the West Virginia conference of the United Methodist Church. (Photo by Robin Eanes)

Pastor and congregation recognized by UMC conference

Pastor Alanna McGuinn, a 2020 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and her congregation at Central United Methodist Church were among three recipients of the One Matters award. The award is given by the West Virginia conference of the United Methodist Church, which includes more than 1,000 congregations.

McGuinn serves Central and three other churches in West Virginia’s Potomac highlands: Capon Bridge, Capon Chapel, and North River Mills.

The award is given to churches “who are demonstrating fruitful ministry specifically in the areas of baptism and professions of faith,” said Ken Willard, the conference’s director of congregational vitality, during a live streamed award ceremony.

“I am humbled to work with the church in spreading the love and grace that Christ brings,” McGuinn said.

“Central has had consistent growth in these three areas over the past four years,” McGuinn said.

Central’s congregation is small, with most members coming from one of five or six extended families, but that hasn’t stopped them from drawing in new attendees. 

How? By being “extremely … invitational to others who have come in, but also meeting individuals where they are and walking with them,” McGuinn said at August’s virtual award ceremony. 

McGuinn graduated from the master of arts in church leadership program earlier this year, after commuting 90 miles through the mountains to attend classes. She was already in ministry before enrolling, but said that her education at EMS made her an “even more effective pastor,” thanks to both the academics and the connections she made with faculty and students.

She describes her role at Central as “a facilitator and advocate, with a bit of teacher thrown in.”

“Together we have deepened the church’s footprint within our community,” McGuinn said. “Known as a church with a ‘sweet gentle spirit,’ Central has been a welcoming, hospitable place to worship and to grow in grace.”

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