She’s the new kid on the block in Chester, but Reverend Sylvia Meadows is really quite a renaissance woman of the Virginia sort.
Meadows hails from a Farmville church by way of Blackstone, where she has provided ministry services. She has been in ministry for 21 years, all in the Virginia area.
Interestingly, Meadows didn’t receive her call to become a reverend originally. She was called to another noble profession in her early life – she became a teacher and taught elementary school for several years. She settled into a life with her husband Lynn, who she refers to “as a country boy.” Then, she took a notion to become a guidance counselor and pursued her master’s degree in counselling.
All the while, the Meadows family expanded to include two children – son Ryan and daughter Ashley. Just as Meadows settled into what she thought would be her professional and family life, she explains that something happened. “I began working as youth director at my church in Farmville,” she recounts. “And, God called me.”
Being so modest about her faith, she explains this simple thing as if it were just another task to be done. Meadows was sent by her church to a conference and God gave her a calling. “It was not at all the way my life was headed,” she said. “I was in the worship service with the prelude music and I had the strongest feeling and I knew that one day I would be ordained.”
She explains that her “marriage and family were very traditional.” When asked how this revelation affected her family, she laughs in the most humble way that she has and remarked, “Well, we went to marriage counselling.” She said “Lynn thought he was signing on for a country wife, and here we were at a crossroads.”
Lynn could see that her calling was serious. “He could see that God works through me, he uses me,“ she shared. “And Lynn is very serious about his faith.”
She admits that it’s been tough. “To answer God’s call has been a challenge and a blessing.” Both her children and their spouses are due to have their first grandchildren in the next nine months. She said it “will be tough to be away from those new grandbabies.” Meadows credits Lynn as the rock of the family. “He is a great dad, and our children and Lynn have grown the horse handling business together while I’ve been doing God’s work,” she said.
Lynn runs a timber business, is a horse handler and keeps the home fires burning at their place in Blackstone. So, the commute is a hard one for Meadows, but she has a sister in the area and is spending time with her, which is a blessing for her. “The question is how can we be faithful to God’s call in our community and in the world,” she added. “I am honored to be here; this is a wonderful church and I am praying about where God is leading us.”
She is quite the “doer” and has done many outreach projects during her ministries at Farmville and Blackstone. In Blackstone, she began an unofficial crisis ministry with the fire department. She would be called out to accidents to lend prayer. Meadows tells the story of ministering at an accident fatality only to find it was a young man she had married and then she had to inform his new wife, and mother, of his passing.
In her role at Farmville, as an extension of her ministry she helped start the Heart of Virginia free clinic. “It‘s a clinic to help the working poor with things they just can’t afford,” she shared. “Love God, love our neighbor.” This is how Meadows rolls. She was also helpful in starting a Kids Café to feed children in need and provide activities and ministry to them during the summers.
Now, the door has opened on a new beginning with Chester United Methodist Church. Meadows arrived in June to the church in the midst of one of the most unsettling times for the members. In the not to distant past, a bookkeeper embezzled substantial funds from the church.
Meadows has had to come in at the beginning of the prosecution of this former staff member and work with law enforcement, a forensic accountant, and church members to unravel the puzzle on how this all happened at the church. “We are working through this and we are still strong and we’re trying to be faithful” she stated. “I think we’ll be stronger, I believe this crisis will allow us to pull together and be united.” She said the church has implemented safeguards and they are prepared to oversee the accounting closely.
She is very optimistic about the outlook of this setback for the church. “Attendance is up, giving is up and there is a focus on prayer,” she shared. “God will show us his vision and his dream for this church.” Meadows is “very hopeful” about this lesson and thinks the church is so strong.
It’s the biggest church Meadows has served at in her ministry with about 1,300 members. She admits she’s “still trying to learn everyone’s names because this is a busy place.” But, she said she has met so many “loving and warm folks.”
The church just had mission Sunday recently and Meadows was just delighted to find out how many projects the church is involved in. With her elementary school roots she’s grateful to see they have such an active preschool program and the outreach. “We have 200 members involved in mission work in 14 different projects.” The projects range from cleanup to reading assistance in Greenleigh Trailer Park to helping in schools to collecting for CARITAS. “These members work tirelessly in service to their community and God,” she added. “We’re here to reach out to the greatest needs in the area.”
She feels the church is so strong. “Nothing has slowed our efforts to serve God and be a community partner,” she said, as she humbly beams. The church is preparing for New Beginnings Sunday on Sept. 8. There will be a celebration for the beginning of school. “It’s a time of fun, food and fellowship,” Meadows shared. “The community is invited.” Services begin at 10 a.m. and there will be hotdogs, popcorn and music, too.
Also, in honor of 9-11, the church will have a Day of Prayer from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. “They can sign-up in the sanctuary or they can walk-in for prayer. “It’s a time for the nation and the community and churches to pray for all those lost,” Meadows said.
Every Sunday, Meadows husband, Lynn, drives down from Blackstone to hear her sermon and support her in the calling God has given her. “I couldn’t do this without a supportive spouse,” Meadows said. She knows that she is right where God has placed her for a reason. “I am trusting in God in my marriage, ministry, for this church and in all areas of life,” she said. She feels strongly that she “is here to grow with the church.”
Meadows shared the parable of one her favorite sermons. “Remember the things that unite us to one another and connect us to God,” she added. “We will grow in God’s grace.”