- Local Guide
The grand opening of Simplee Sweet Bakery 302 E. Auglaize St. happened yesterday for owners Paul and Kathy Eisert.
Simplee Sweet's normal business hours will be Monday through Saturday from 5:30 a.m. to noon.
From left, Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Josh Hines, Tyler Copeland, of Koenig Insurance, Josiah Osborn, administrator of Wapakoneta Manor, Lena Springer, owner and stylist at Mirror Image, Casey Newman, stylist at Mirror Image, Cindy Jones, stylist at Mirror Image, Debbie McElroy, administrator at the Gardens at Wapakoneta, Mayor Rodney Metz and Kathy Mathews, of Superior Federal Credit Union, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for Mirror Image Hair Salon. The ceremony celebrated the business becoming a member of the Chamber of Commerce as well as its new location on 801 Middle St (Staff photo/Cassie Smith).
GUTMAN — Traveling state Route 65, you see Toledo, Perrysburg, Rossford, Lima and Ottawa, and if you don’t blink, you’ll also see Gutman.
Yet, Gutman has something those bigger cities do not, Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church, a 127-year-old church on the verge of closing just over a year ago.
“The Methodist Church Board decided to let God decide rather to close it or not,” said Mt. Tabor UMC Pastor Rodney Ritchie.
When Ritchie arrived in December 2013, after four years as a youth pastor at Uniopolis UMC, 13 people attended service. Since his first service Easter in 2014, he says a faith in God has served as a catalyst for the church’s renaissance.
Mt. Tabor has undergone cosmetic changes, such as new pews, new lighting, extended parking lot, fresh paint on the doors, ceiling fans and a bell tower that will soon be repainted after a frequent passer-by donated $1,000.
However, physical improvements are not the only change at the church. The mentality has changed, a mentality seldom encountered at a traditional, conservative church. Ritchie welcomes everyone, no matter your wardrobe, love for tattoos, your race or orientation.
“We had a kid come to Easter service all tattooed up and I asked him if he was coming back next week,” Ritchie said. “He said he would and I said, ‘wear a sleeveless shirt next time because you’re going to be the greeter.’”
The man came back to Ritchie to make sure he heard Ritchie correctly. The man has been told from other churches not to come back if he was going to wear a sleeveless shirt.
“If we have someone with tattoos greeting you at the door, then you’re going to feel comfortable if you have tattoos too and you’re going to feel like, ‘hey, I feel accepted here,’” Ritchie said. “The main thing that we have going here is we love people. When they come in, we don’t smother them, but we shake their hands and make sure they know we are happy they are here. We (also) don’t judge people here and I think people get that feeling.”
Other churches around the nation had not done a good job previously of accepting people who are not the “norm,” such as those with tattoos, divorced or who have had problems with drugs, Ritchie said.
“We accept everybody because bottom line is, we’re all messed up,” Ritchie said. “I have sinned, everybody in the church sins, what makes us better than anyone else? We have put stereotypes aside and we have just welcomed people who have been hurt from other churches. Everybody has a place in our church.”
Ritchie believes in a pastor who is able to relate to his congregation and is not trying to feel like he is a bigger individual than his following. In his first month, Ritchie told his new congregation that he was going to disappoint them because he is an individual just like those sitting in the pews, just a regular guy with the same problems and issues.
And that mindset has given Ritchie the confidence to think big, such as proclaiming there would be 120 people during the two Easter Day services, for which 121 showed.
“From our Good Friday service, our Easter egg hunt and then our Sunday services, we had almost 300 people through our doors,” he said. “It feels like everything we touch right now turns into gold, and it’s because we are so close to God. He blesses everything that we do.”
But it’s not the “Rod Show,” it’s the “God Show.”
“I have nothing in this,” Ritchie said. “Another guy could come in here and do the same thing we are doing now if he does what God wants him to do.”
Ritchie’s goal this year is to have every member in the church be closer to God and continue to thrust the church in the right direction.
“I just think we keep doing what we are doing,” said Ritchie. “It’s all about loving God and loving people.”
Mt. Tabor is alive and well today, has seen a continued makeover and Ritchie is comfortable thinking big, with the strong belief that God is by his side.
“We can fill this building, we just have to believe that we can do it,” he said. “We are not going to bother Jesus with small thoughts, small ideas, we should always be thinking big. We should be able to reach everybody in our community.
“As long as we keep our eyes focused on what God wants us to do, year two is going to be better than year one and that’s not just big thinking, that is knowing.”