New Challenges Posed to a Formerly Rural Church
Sleepy Pittsville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore used to be just that. Sleepy.
“We are becoming quite the bedroom community for young families whose breadwinners work elsewhere in Maryland or up in Delaware. We’re on the map now,” boasts Floyd Twilley, Director of Communications for Ayres United Methodist Church. “We aren’t the pit stop anymore for folks heading to the beach. We matter!”
Floyd Twilley is no idle bragger. Look around town and the evidence of rebirth is everywhere. Even the old firehouse has been cobbled into an upscale restaurant. In Pittsville what’s old is beautiful and therefore accepted. “Our church building dates to the 1880s. From an aesthetic point of view, you won’t find a lovelier church anywhere. New people to the community like the idea of an old country church. Our problem was the new folks didn’t know what we were all about,” Floyd admits. “We needed a new church sign in order to appeal to them and keep up with the incredible growth this area has had in recent years.”
Ayres United Methodist Church priced signs available from local sign dealers and determined the local product “lackluster and prohibitive on cost,” to quote Mr. Twilley. “I myself knew we’d eventually purchase a Stewart sign. To tell you’re the truth, I don’t even know why we shopped around at all,” he chuckles.
Their old sign backs up against the church building. “It was installed back in the days when folks walked to service. It’s a nice sign although we needed something out by the road and perpendicular to the flow of traffic. And, we wanted an illuminated sign. The time had come to reach out to the new community. In the end we left the old sign alone and positioned our Stewart sign in front of the church on Gumboro Road. People tell us they can see the sign from more than a quarter mile away.”
Pastor John Hinkle, Jr. right away took charge of changing the messages weekly. Floyd Twilley describes his pastor as “really into it.”
“Pastor John has it down to a science. Even though the speed of traffic is 35 mph in both directions, he’s figured out that motorists coming into town have a few extra seconds to read the sign’s message over those driving from the other direction. Every Wednesday you’ll see him inside the church spelling out messages on a banquet table before going out to the sign. Our pastor takes great pride in what goes on the message board.”
“It doesn’t take long to actually change a message because the vandal cover stays up and locked in place while you’re changing letters,” Floyd likes to point out. “Your left hand is not holding up the sign’s cover while your right hand is spelling out words.”
“The newcomers in the community are taking notice of our new sign. We can see it Sunday mornings,” affirms Floyd. “Shucks, we like our new sign so much we use it as the masthead of our church newsletter!”