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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

FUMC welcomes Steve and Artie Johnson

By Ethan Nahté

When a person looks to the west and northwest from the natural spring at Janssen Park, the churches at the corner of Port Arthur Avenue and Ninth Street capture the eye. Due west stands a brick church with a vivid and bright stained glass on the front of an angel in the heavens with people looking up.

Two lots were purchased on that corner in 1906 and the cornerstone was set in 1907 to become the sanctuary for the growing congregation, which began in Mena in 1896 before the first train ever came to Mena. They were led by Pastor J.Y. Christmas. Throughout the decades, renovations were made, and things added, including the beautiful pipe organ installed sometime in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s.

Now, a few pastors later, the Mena’s First United Methodist Church has recently welcomed Pastor Steve Johnson and his wife Artie.

He said, “I’ve been a pastor in Arkansas United Methodist Churches for 39 years. I came here from Hope. I was there for 13 years.”

FUMC lost their previous pastor this past spring. Pastor Scott Stewart died March 5 of this year. FUMC had an interim pastor until the Johnson’s arrival on July 1. The church has a congregation of 45-50, according to Johnson. “They are a very welcoming congregation.”

Johnson was born in South Dakota. He lived there through graduating high school. He then attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa where he got his B.A. in New Testament studies and a Master of Divinity degree. From there, he made another state home.

“I married a girl from Arkansas, so that’s what got me to Arkansas. I started [preaching] in Calico Rock, then at Conway for four years, then Mountain View for 18, then to Hope, and then here. I love the hills. It reminds me a lot of Mountain View. We love the scenery. We’re looking forward to fall when the leaves change. I like it in a small town… not too many stop signs, and I get to know people.”

He enjoys walking. He likes the fact that a lot of people wave as they go by. He also enjoys the fact there is not the stress of the big-city life. The natural surroundings help.

“We’ve been up on the mountain and the views are just gorgeous.”


Church and community

Johnson spoke about the several activities the church has, not only for church members, but for the entire community.

In August, the church was collecting dry food for dogs and cats for the Humane Society of the Ouachitas (HSO). “I think last year was the first year they did it. They heard there was a need and we’re always trying to meet that need. I think last year they collected over 300 pounds.”

The church has held a Trunk or Treat for children at Halloween. Church members passed out candy in their parking lot and visited with families.

They have their own backpack program which they include non-perishable food, school supplies and hygiene items.

The Book Buffet donates books for third grade students in local schools.

They have members who deliver flowers to both Peachtree and Green House Cottages.

“We have a men’s breakfast every Tuesday for any of the men in our community. There’s no agenda; just casual visiting.

“We’ve got a ladies’ luncheon once a month on a Friday. The ladies from the church rotate restaurants.”

Church members also make layettes for new babies at the hospital.

“I know this church has done an open house after the Christmas parade, with refreshments and inviting people in.”

As for church services, Johnson said, “We’ve got very open doors. Anybody is welcome to attend. Some of the things I might bring that are a little different is I’m a certified Life Coach. I do a lot of pre-marital counseling and counseling in general. Life Coaching takes you from where you are now to future-oriented goal setting, where or who you would like to be in the future.

“I have a certification in Mental Health Coaching. There has been a dramatic increase in anxiety and other mental health issues since the COVID-19 pandemic. Family conflicts seem to be more prevalent. It was increasing before COVID.”

“I’m also an Enneagram Coach, it’s similar in some personality inventories except it goes a little deeper into a person’s motives for why they do what they do. It’s very interesting. It usually starts with an inventory that you take and discerns what you are like personality-wise and why you do the things that you do. Basically, you go through the results of the inventory… it’s called ‘typing.’ It goes through a number system one through nine. You learn a lot about yourself — who you are, a lot of insights you may not have realized about yourself. You can then go into a five-session deeper dive into goals for the future and how you can take who you are and do what you do and makes some changes in order to become a better person.

“My wife and I have done a lot of different Bible studies. Hopefully, we will be doing them at this church very soon. Right now, we have two Sunday school classes. We’re hoping to do [classes] during weeknights. We have worship services on Sunday mornings. The Sunday services are streamed on Facebook live.”

The Sunday school classes are at 9 a.m. and the worship service follows at 10 a.m. As a matter of fact, the livestream of the Johnson’s being introduced to the congregation on July 2 is available at .

Johnson spoke about how technology has changed the way he approaches a sermon. “When it’s your own local congregation you can deal with specific issues going in within the congregation. There’s a lot of things you don’t want to put out on the internet… very sensitive information like who is in the hospital or things like that. I’ve had to generalize that a lot. Some of the sermons get to be a little more generalized that could go to the wider audience.”

In describing how FUMC delivers the word of God, Johnson said, “We focus more on grace rather than the hellfire and brimstone judgment. As far as my preaching, it’s very pastoral, caring about people and wanting people to have a relationship with Christ. We’re not controlling or trying to tell people what to do. We’re just preaching what the Bible says and having a relationship with Jesus Christ as your savior and walking in his ways. That should be what our church is about is helping people find that relationship with Christ and that new life.

“There’s a big hope for the church to have more children and youth and add some of those programs. We’ve had a few children in church. I know that part of that with youth is when they get a car you seem to see them less. I don’t think parents are bringing their kids to church as much as they used to.”

“We’ve just recently started a choir back. We had a music person recently come to the church and is starting that program,” Johnson said. He welcomes anyone who wants to come join the choir.”

“One of the values of worship on Sundays is to have that Sabbath,” Johnson said. “It gives a good rhythm to the week when you have a day of rest and not work seven days a week or be running here and there seven days a week. Take time out and have some family time.”

FUMC is located at 501 Ninth St., across from Janssen Park. They can be reached at 479-394-3051. Their information can also be found on the Pulse church page.

(All photos by Ethan Nahté except the photo of Pastor Johnson and his wife Artie.)

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