Stephanie Moon updates the board in front of the North Middletown Christian Church, adding the sentence "190 years strong" to commemorate the church's anniversary. She has served as the minister since 2015, bringing her uplifting and caring style to a shrinking and aging community.
Stephanie talks over the phone as she stands in front of the portraits of previous pastors. Her husband, Steven Osborne, admires how his wife serves as the first female minister. “Being a woman in this role presents many obstacles, and she handles them in a way that does not alienate the male congregants,” says Steve.
Stephanie visits church member Charlie Heaberlin at his home after he returned to town from attending his sister's funeral in Minnesota. She thanks Charlie for the plant she receives from him as she leaves the house. Charlie is one of the most regular members of the church.
Stephanie knocks on the door of Charlie Heaberlin's home. Charlie is busy renovating the kitchen, and it takes him some time to answer. Stephanie knows Charlie is at home because she called him two days ago and arranged the visit. Stephanie calls to check on her congregants as well, especially when she can't visit them.
Stephanie visits Gladys Oldson in the Bourbon Heights senior living community in Paris. They take communion and pray together. Gladys moved to this facility shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic, and she no longer attends Sunday worship at church. Stephanie runs errands for Gladys. During this visit, the minister brings a manual of instructions to help Gladys use a brand-new microwave that was recently installed at her home.
Stephanie carries some of the articles she needs for Sunday worship to another room. Every fifth Sunday, the community celebrates Food, Faith, and Fellowship, an event that Stephanie first introduced in the church to worship and have a meal with all the congregants.
Stephanie stretches after moving some boxes. Since the staff is minimal at the church, she needs to do an array of tasks on her own.
Stephanie lifts several copies of "The Hymnal for Worship and Celebrations" in preparation for Sunday. Music plays an integral part of Stephanie's life. She is a member of the Lexington Singers and rehearses with the choir every Monday. Her joyful personality and talent manifest when she sings spontaneously throughout the day as she performs small tasks.
Betty Allman, 93, speaks with Stephanie upon returning home from the hospital. Allman misses attending the Sunday service in person. "She tells it as it is," says Betty when asked about Stephanie's sermons. Recca Dawes, the church secretary, brought a large tablet to Betty's home, hoping she could still watch the sermons from home.
Stephanie rests briefly at home while responding to emails and listening to calming music on her TV. Finding time to rest, reflect, and guide people spiritually is important to her. "Jesus did not die for us to go to heaven; he died to bring heaven to us," says Stephanie.