Sitting along Ohio’s scenic byway

Randy Rucker

Beverly and I found our way to the Friendship United Methodist Church for a Sunday morning service. The church sits in the shadow of what is proclaimed as Ohio’s largest yellow buckeye tree. The beauty along the highway passing this lovely church is probably one of the reasons this route has been placed on Ohio record as a Scenic Byway.

Ohio today has a plentiful whitetail deer population but much of the ending and beginning of that population occurred in this area going into the Turkey Creek region, a stone throw away from this church. The whitetailed deer was the last large game animal to be eliminated from Scioto County Ohio. Some were killed in the 1880’s around the Twin Creek area close to here. However the last wild deer to be killed in Scioto County was killed in Turkey Creek sometime around 1895. The return of deer to Ohio had it’s beginning here as well but I will discuss that later as we visit another church in closer proximity!

Today I am seeing some familiar faces but none so much as our long time friends, the Stockhams. Jack and his wife Pat were the originators of a Scioto County 4-H backpack club and we trekked with them around Shawnee Forest on a number of occasions. Stockhams, I might add originated from a local pioneer family in the area. Well, Pat recently invited us to their church and well, here we were! So let us introduce you to the Friendship United Methodist Church.

Since we had a cross county drive to get there a 10:30 a.m. start time was nice.

But today’s initial greeting was a little different than we were use to with the Church dog welcoming us and not only that, but walking us into the church. Come to find out he is a regular at the church and they even include him on the church program cover changing his position in the artwork each week. No doubt about it, that dog sure loves his church.

Pastor Gary Hopkins opened their service on this day with “Good morning church”! He then said, “May this service please you father.”

Just before the service began we learned that there have actually been three churches here since the original was built in 1835. The second was destroyed in a fire with this beautiful present church having been built in 1935.

I think it was Bill Tipton who discussed a lay retreat conference being held in Waverly plus an annual blanket project. Though I never wrote down the context of the story he told a fishing joke that went something like this. Two guys fishing had a pretty good day, had caught a lot of fish in one location. The smarter guy said to the dumber guy, go ahead and mark the spot where we got all those fish. So the dumber guy put a big x on the front bottom of the boat. So when they got their boat back in the smarter guy saw how he had marked the boat and he said, “you idiot, we may not get the same boat tomorrow”. Now that’s funny folks.

Then there was a congregation birthday call with one person stating that many had come today to mark their dad’s, Grandpas birthday. Then there was a congregation Hymnal reading. Psalm 145 8–21. Then they sang Doxology, praising God from who all blessings flow!

Next was the offering collection and a post prayer following. The pastor’s sermon was titled, “Loving God, the adventure of a lifetime”. His name by the way is Gary Hopkins and as I understand he also preaches at another United Methodist Church down the road so I guess Beverly and I will run into him again at that time.

One little girl acted as a candle girl down the aisle up to the front. He spoke to her several times as she set on the stage with her candle. The Pastor related his thankfulness to the congregation and then he accepted prayer requests. How nice that the Pastor offered a compassionate prayer for both his congregation and country. I really liked how he walked up and down both aisles presenting his sermon as he walked looking into the eyes of his people. He kept his eyes open during the prayer which I think allowed him to see the response of all around him.

He said that “life is exciting” and that “the Lord gave us Jesus as a special Valentine”. He said, “life is like a box of chocolates”. There was more of course, but eventually he got into leading his church family into The Lords Prayer.

He took a little time to tell guests about the church dog that greets them every week, singing as the church bell is rung. One of his last remarks was that all should not only respond to their loved ones on Valentine’s day, but everyday you should tell your special person you love them! He shared a verse in Deuteronomy 6. The Pastor said, “we are methodists, we don’t get carried away”. He pointed out that though Christians have not seen God, they love him. You don’t have to see God to love him with your hearts. Witness your love for Christ. I would like for the Lord to make good impressions on everyone’s life.

He discussed Acts 4 and said that Apostles were on trial for teaching on the resurrection of Christ. “Jesus has changed our lives, his miracles have taken our breath away. Loving God is sharing what we have learned. We should remember our commandment to love the Lord our God”! “And we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves”. Though, “nothing is more important in life than loving the Lord”. He then pointed out Romans 10: 9!

In closing the Pastor quoted the child’s song, “Jesus Loves Me”! He said, “Oh Valentine, please be mine and pointed out that it is right to love and honor God”! Today’s closing song was “Lord I want to be a Christian”!

Though I keep my research to a minimum I see the Methodist denomination going back to 1845 with major changes and branches forming from a Kansas City Missouri Conference held in 1939.

Beverly and I joined a pretty good table full of Methodists at a Scioto County line place called the Shawnee Fort Restaurant. Remember my earlier comments concerning the significance of Ohio’s deer population to this area, well a large deer bounded across the highway in front of us on our way to dinner. It was a great dinner and an opportunity to visit with close friends we had not seen for quite some time. A cat greeted us at dinner. An amazing day, see ya in church.

Randy Rucker

Reach Randy Rucker at

Reach Randy Rucker at