Faith on the roof: Pastor finds unique way to raise funds to fight malaria
By Neill Caldwell
BROSVILLE, Va. - Through storms and wet and dark of night, the Rev. Faith Weedling kept her promise to spend one hour on the church roof for every $100 her church raised for Imagine No Malaria. She expected to be there “a few” hours.
Only “a few” became 38, thanks to the generosity of her church folks at Brosville UMC and those at the two-point charge that her husband, the Rev. Steve Weedling, pastors. The churches raised $3,800 for Imagine No Malaria, The United Methodist Church’s effort to eliminate the disease that kills a person every minute around the world.
And the “roof” became a sturdy railed platform reached by a long staircase/ladder, with a backyard recliner, tent and all the supplies she needed. Still, when the lightning started crackling on Saturday evening, Weedling considered the better part of valor and came inside for a time, joining the big church-wide supper that had also moved inside to the church fellowship hall because of the weather.
Weedling had to start her stunt at 8:30 p.m. on Friday in order to be able to finish at noon on Sunday, or the close of the weekly worship service, which she conducted from her rooftop perch.
By the time Sunday morning worship was held it was bright and sunny, and a crowd filled the chairs set out across the lawn and parking lot. Weedling preached her weekly sermon from her rooftop perch, and Danville District Superintendent the Rev. Janine Howard led the Great Thanksgiving over Holy Communion.
“One man was able to attend for the first time in quite a while because (worship) was outdoors,” said Howard. “His wife brought him and they parked the car close enough to the action to allow participation in everything. We took him communion ‘curbside.’”
“Faith was a trooper, though, until the end,” said Maria Maxwell, Virginia Conference field coordinator for Imagine No Malaria. “She offered her Sunday message from the rooftop and, I believe, inspired a community in the process. Faith is a blessing beyond measure! God's calling on her to support Imagine No Malaria not only encouraged her faith, but the faith of those she serves and ministers to on a daily basis. 'Thank you' seems so small for the effort and excitement they all poured into this awesome cause for the sake of many in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
“Brosville UMC and Faith’s husband's churches, Wesley Chapel and Rock Springs, could not have been more welcoming to the conference staff and families that attended the dinner held Saturday night in honor of the event,” Maxwell added.
Truck and traffic sounds from nearby Highway 58 kept Weedling awake during the nights, but she continued to post on Facebook: “Sounds from the Brosville UMC roof: 2:30 a.m. - hoot owl; 3:30 a.m. - dogs barking; 4:30 a.m. - rooster crowing.” … “What do you do at 3:15 when you're on a roof and wide awake? - pray, of course! … Prayed for many drivers who went up and down 58 during the night. Tonight I may rethink the ear plug suggestion."
The whole thing was a big event for this small Pittsylvania County community located between Martinsville and Danville, just above the Virginia-North Carolina state line.
“These three churches have really rallied around her,” said Pastor Steve Weedling. “It’s lit a fire under them.”
“There’s also been a lot of publicity around the community,” added Faith Weedling. “We’ve had people who only occasionally visited our church who have been really involved in this. In fact they’ve said ‘I don’t do church, but would be glad to be involved in stuff like this.’”
“Brosville has seen a steady decline in membership,” she added. “But partnership is my thing, it’s where the church is at our best. The church is at its worst when it’s thinking about any decline.”
“The focus has changed from ‘we can’t do that’ to ‘let’s do that!’” Steve added. “For example, my two churches have done a Stop Hunger Now meal packing event for two years in a row by inviting other churches to partner with us. So now it’s become a thing we do. People ask me about when are we going to invite those other churches.”
It really was a ‘happening.” Some church and community members came with tents to also camp out on the parking lot.
Brosville UMC member Jackie Minter set Weedling’s adventure to music, sung to the tune of “The Camptown Races”:
Pastor Faith is on the roof,
Praise God, praise God!
Need some nets, mosquito proof,
Praise the Lord all day.
Pastor’s on the roof, pastor’s on the roof.
We give our money to buy some nets,
God will do the rest!
The cardboard cutout of Bishop Young Jin Cho first unveiled at Annual Conference was also on hand.
“We’ve had fun moving ‘Bishop Cho’ around the district,” said Steve Weedling. “It’s so lifelike, people forget he’s there and they get surprised. One day (our DS) Janine (Howard) asked me where the ‘Bishop’ was and I said we were storing him in our den, and we had to keep the door closed because we were afraid our little dog would go in and pee on him. ... And that got some strange looks from the church members who overheard us.”
Did Weedling learn any lessons from this experience?
“As tired as I am now, I’d say the lesson is not to come up with these kinds of ideas,” said Weedling. “But it’s been good. We’ve raised a lot of money and, hopefully, this will lead other pastors on the district to do crazy things to get involved.”
-Neill Caldwell is editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate magazine.