Spearfish UMC is part of the Dakotas Oasis Network of Churches that will welcome persons who wish to remain United Methodist after a church has chosen to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. In the Black Hills area, other Oasis churches are Rapid City Knollwood Heights UMC and Rapid City Open Heart UMC. The action for Spearfish UMC to approve becoming an Oasis church took place at the charge conference in November 2022. Mary Hayenga brought the motion and felt it is important to welcome any who feel displaced by the disaffiliation of a church.
Janelle Jones, laity at Spearfish UMC and former Dakotas Conference Lay Leader, was interested in the Oasis Network as a way to help laity connect with a local church if their church was moving in a different direction. SW District Superintendent Dan Bader invited all churches in the district to choose this means of offering pastoral care, hospitality and worship.
One of the 19 Dakotas churches who chose to disaffiliate is Belle Fourche. Some of those churches that are disaffiliated may become part of the Global Methodist Church due to the ongoing issues over sexuality.
“I recall hearing about the needs of folks in Dickinson when their church voted to disaffiliate. They are starting a new church with United Methodist connections. Some small communities will not start a new church but need to find a nearby UMC. Spearfish UMC serves that need for Belle Fourche residents. One example is that Rev Gail Arnold, retired clergy, and his spouse Clara are now part of Spearfish UMC with Clara transfering her membership while Gail's membership remains with the Dakotas Conference,” stated Jones.
“Because Spearfish is so near to Belle Fourche and our church serves the Northern Hills area with numerous members with Belle Fourche addresses, this was an important next step to welcome our neighbors,” commented Jones. “Being an oasis is a positive image for such a time as this.”
The Oasis Network of Churches was started by a Texas Conference District Superintendent. The Dakotas Conference District Superintendents are inviting congregations to consider their capacity to offer pastoral care, hospitality and worship for the lay people seeking a United Methodist connection. Ten churches across the Dakotas have made this commitment so far.
One of the ways Spearfish UMC has welcomed transfer members from other churches was to invite them to a lunch and learn session called “Discover Spearfish UMC.” Among those who attended some wished to join by profession of faith, some by transfer from UMC or other churches. One couple asked to attend to learn more but are current members of Spearfish UMC. Topics included Wesley heritage, historical struggles with slavery, prohibition, women's sufferage and sexuality. “This denomination has a history of splitting and combining such as Methodist Church joining with Evangelical United Brethren (EUB), thus the United part of the name. Donna (who was EUB) reminds us to say UNITED Methodist to honor that joining in 1968,” Jones commented.
Being a connectional church is a focus of Spearfish UMC in areas such as camping, missions, youth, and having a pastor sent out and appointed by the bishop and cabinet. Currently, Spearfish has Rev. John Madvig as a transitional pastor following 12 years of Rev. Scott McKirdy as pastor.