Like most others, the sanctuary at Oakland United Christian Church is a peaceful place that encourages reflection and quiet prayer.
While cars and trucks bustle up and down on Godwin Boulevard, it’s calm and peaceful inside the sanctuary, where the man for whom the road was named — the late Virginia governor Mills Godwin Jr., one of Chuckatuck’s most famous sons — worshipped.
The church has recently begun opening its sanctuary to the general public for private prayer and reflection every Wednesday morning, between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m.
Jason Stump, its director of Christian education and a seminary student, says the church has lately been looking at how it can serve the community in new and unique ways, “rather than the same old.”
Stump said he brought the idea for Wednesday mornings to the pastor and executive committee after discovering something similar at another church.
“They told me to run with it,” he said.
This week is the fourth Wednesday the concept has been put into action at Oakland UCC. Stump said the church has been “very intentional” in advertising the concept using the word “all.”
Last Wednesday, one visitor told him she had been driving by the sign outside the church and the word “all” had stuck in her mind, Stump said.
“She doesn’t currently go to church, but faith is a big part of her life,” he said. “Last week she decided to act upon that. Not only did she pray, but her and myself and another church member had a great conversation and really found out what she was dealing with in life.”
But there’s no pressure to discuss issues of spirituality or do anything, Stump says. Folks might read, he said, be it the Bible or whatever novel they’re working on.
They can sit in a pew and pray; they can pray at the altar; they can pray according to whatever faith they follow. But they don’t have to pray; they can just sit and enjoy the peace, Stump added.
“They don’t have to belong here (and) they don’t have to come back,” he said. “We offer coffee and stuff to make tea, bottled water. Sometimes we have pastries or fruit.”
Godwin Boulevard is a busy commuter route, Stump observed. People come from all the way down in North Carolina, and folks travel to the packing plant in Smithfield, the shipyard in Newport News, Planters Peanuts, Lipton and many other workplaces — schools included.
“I’m a former school teacher, so I know they are going through tough times,” Stump said. “This could be a good place for them to gather of a morning. The time seems a little early, but there’s traffic on the road at 5:30.”
Stump described Wednesday mornings at Oakland UCC as fairly open and easy. “You don’t have to figure out a sermon or message,” he said. “You don’t have to sing.”