Growing a blended ecology of compassion in Fort Pierce, Florida
My name is Rev. Tim Barton and I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being the pastor at First United Methodist Church of Fort Pierce since July 2022. I was raised in the UMC in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, having the typical childhood/teen Christian formation experience. I was baptized and confirmed as a child, I made a commitment to follow Jesus at a United Methodist Summer camp, was in youth group, and did all of the things that should have set me up for a life of following through with that commitment to follow Jesus.
But when I was 16, I made a decision to follow something else with more fervency than Jesus. I found drugs and alcohol and for the next 12 years, I found myself in and out of treatment facilities, correctional institutions, and miserable circumstances. At 28 I found myself in Tampa, FL, completely broken. I cried out desperately to God for help, but I did not believe that God still believed in me.
Through God’s grace, I was admitted to a treatment center in March 2013, and on Easter Sunday they offered to take us to church. The church they took us to was Wellspring UMC, and on Easter Sunday I heard the message about what Jesus had done for me and I began to truly believe that God could resurrect this broken man’s broken life.
I threw myself into the life of that church, and that congregation threw themselves into my life. They nurtured me, raised me up, empowered me, and certified my call to Ordained Ministry.
My call to ministry has been to carry on the work of Wellspring UMC who were agents of the resurrection in my life.
In Fort Pierce, our church is situated at life’s crossroads. Walking in any direction of the church will land you in a different cultural location. Our goal is to create space where people from all of our diverse neighborhoods can come and work together to find transformation.
Long before I arrived, a yoga ministry began that brings together people from all walks of faith. Led by my dear friend Mary Weden, it has become a church community in its own right, and because of generous hearts, it actually generates income that supports mission work both locally and internationally.
Shortly after my arrival, we began constructing a community garden that produces hundreds (soon to be thousands) of pounds of produce that is harvested, cleaned, and distributed to local low-income housing projects and other food-insecure people in the Fort Pierce area. Every week members of the church, the USDA, and the Master Gardeners guild meet together to share and live out their faith through the original human vocation: gardening.
Our busiest community is our Shower Church which is a ministry that targets our un-housed population. We offer showers, fresh clothing, haircuts, medical services, a lunch that is packed by the Yoga Church participants, and a place for prayer and discussion about faith and the restorative power of Jesus with members of the church and one another.
Our next endeavor that is in the works is called "Conscious Contact Community” or “C3” which is a Christ-centered recovery group that embraces the 12 Steps and invites those from all walks of life to come and experience the resurrection power of Christ that is revealed in the recovery community.
All of these communities overlap in some way and find their anchor in the inherited church and her mission: “To flood the treasure coast with the transformational love of Jesus.” We are seeing lives changed and communities transformed by creating safe spaces for people to come and see what this Jesus is all about, and we are excited for what the future holds. What is happening is truly the movement of God in new and wonderful ways in Fort Pierce!