(Editor's note: This is the first in a continuing series about Rim country churches and how they contribute to the character and beauty of our community.)
Mel K. Munchinsky's favorite images and inspiration, not surprisingly, originate from the Bible. The portrait, "The Risen Christ by the Sea," hangs behind his desk. It depicts Jesus, smiling, on a boat holding a fishing net.
And his personal motto, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit says the Lord Almighty," he adopted from the Old Testament, Zachariah 4:6, 30 years ago.
Munchinsky, also known as Pastor Mel, came to Payson nearly five years ago. "I've often thought, I wonder what a photo album of Jesus would be like," he said. "The only way to put one together is to get different conceptions of what He might look like."
To that end, Pastor Mel, a man of the cloth for 25 years, has collected several portraits, including a Byzantine-style piece donated by a parishioner, for the walls of the Payson United Methodist Church.
Methodists believe they have an obligation to bear a faithful Christian witness to Jesus Christ, the living reality at the center of the Church's life.
Pastor Mel and his flock live through their beliefs by their community outreach programs. For instance, Wacky Wednesday serves youth in the Rim country. The after-school program offers kindergartners through fifth-graders fun activities while middle and high school students experience mentoring.
The congregation also provides free transportation to any child in Payson who wishes to attend Sunday School.
The full set of bells in the music room was impressive. Pastor Mel said there had been a children's bell ringing choir in the past, and there could be again if there was an interest.
"The music ministry is very strong and it is probably one of the most positive aspects of the church," he said.
The church's music program includes the Witness Praise team, a contemporary band, the Chancel Choir and the Grace Notes Bell Choir. The choir and bells are led by staff and congregation members.
Membership has more than quadrupled since the first Methodist services were held in September 1987 at the Julia Randall Elementary School. The initial phase of construction on the church began in early 1993.
Outside, on the northeast corner of the grounds, is a small meditation garden that was created as a memorial for members who have been cremated. To the west of the sanctuary is a meditation walk that was created as a young man's Eagle Scout project a few years ago. The short walk makes use of the small hill that is part of the natural landscape.
If one follows the rock-lined path to the top of the hill there is a simple, white cross.
To learn more about the Payson United Methodist Church, call (928) 474-0485, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to www.umc.org. Contemporary services are held each Sunday at 8:30 a.m.; traditional services at 11 a.m.