Wesley UMC in Hadley, MA: Open hearts, open parking lot

Photos taken by a Harvest Hosts guest while at Wesley UMC in Hadley, MA.

October 11, 2022

United Methodist churches are known for opening their doors, but perhaps less so for opening their parking lots. But Wesley UMC in Hadley, MA, has done just that by becoming a Harvest Host. 
Harvest Hosts is a membership program for RVers that offers access to unique RV camping options such as farms, wineries and, yes, churches. 
Harvest Hosts members can reserve a free one-night stay at one of 7,000 locations across the U.S., and in return are encouraged to make a donation to or purchase from their host. The RVs must be self-contained. Hosts do not provide water or any services other than a place to park.
Wesley UMC Trustee Sarah Komer did the initial research into the program and handles the reservations and contact with guests. 
While she was not a member, Komer, her husband, and son have been RV living full time since the start of the pandemic, so this was “kind of was up my alley,” she said.
The church, Komer said, offers RVers a “sense of security and a safe place for people to stay the night.”
The rural location is quiet and allows guest to have time alone unlike a crowded campsite, Komer said. The church can accommodate
two RVs at once, but they typically host one at a time. The church’s lot is also flat and level, which is an asset for those parking an RV.
Wesley UMC launched the program in November 2021 and had one guest before that winter. Since April, the church has hosted 14-15 guests. Some of whom have returned for a second stay. 
Tracking page views, Komer said there have been about 1,000 since they started with Harvest Hosts. Guests also have the opportunity to leave comments.
“I think, for the most part, people have enjoyed the location of the church. The space where the church is is picturesque,” Komer said. 
She recalled one comment from a woman whose relative had been a United Methodist pastor, “so she had kind of wanted to stay at a place that's familiar in a way.”
When guests reserve their spot, Komer shares the church website, which has an online giving function, as well as an invitation to join Sunday worship.
RV guests don’t typically engage with the congregation, but one couple did ask to see inside the church during their stay.
For Wesley’s pastor, Rev. Sooyoun Kim, the program is simply another point of connection. 
“I think, in general, this church is a very open, very welcoming, and a very outward-reaching congregation,” she said. 
There’s not much for the church to do beyond handling the reservations, Rev. Kim said, but even so, it’s another way to offer something to the community. 
“This church, it’s all about community always,” Rev. Kim said.
Komer agreed, saying the program allows the congregation to “just put ourselves out there as a church, as a welcoming place,” whether guests simply use the parking lot or choose to attend worship.
“[We’re] letting people know in the community, or even more broadly, that we're here, and we’re a safe place to stay or to come,” Komer said.
Once Komer brought the proposal to the Trustees, it was approved quickly, Rev. Kim said, and that also speaks well of the church. 
“I'm very proud of us for being very open to a new idea, because it's very new; it's something that you've never heard of before,” Rev. Kim said.