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Photo courtesy of Jeff St. Clair

The Rev. Jeff St. Clair (center) offers a short sermon during the weekly "Kayaking with Jeff" service sponsored by Mandarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

Photo courtesy of Jeff St. Clair

The Rev. Jeff St. Clair

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‘Kayaking with Jeff’

Christine Kumar
January-February 2017

It Worked for Us

Jaime Lepp feels God's presence when she goes kayaking with the pastor and others from her church and community.

"This is church for me," said Lepp. She, church members and people from the community enjoy kayaking with the Rev. Jeffrey St. Clair, also known as "Pastor Jeff," who serves Mandarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

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"Here at Mandarin UMC, we want to develop a culture of meeting people where they already are because we know that they may never walk into our doors at church," said St. Clair.

"Kayaking with Jeff" began in January 2016 when St. Clair, an avid kayaker, was constantly put on waiting lists for kayaking trips. After praying, he was led to start his own group. It was the same time he heard of the Fresh Expression movement to create new places for people – many of whom may be unchurched – to worship.

That first outing saw 15 kayakers begin their adventure in the water. Currently, St. Clair has 35-70 people join him on Saturdays. Adults and children see fish, eagles and dolphins and experience sunsets, fresh air and much more.

"Most importantly we have grown in faith and in community with each other," said St. Clair.

St. Clair opens the group with prayer, scripture and a brief message and has conversations on the water with the kayakers.

The church partners with a local business that charges it low fees to rent kayaks and paddles.

"I knew there was a need to get out on the water," St. Clair said, "but didn't realize how popular this was going to become." He added that some of the kayakers have never been to church and others have left the church.He is thrilled that he can lead church on the water.

AT A GLANCE: Mandarin United Methodist Church | 11270 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32223 | 904-268-5549 | scurts@mumc.net | www.mumc.net | Rev. Deborah A. McLeod, senior pastor | Average attendance: 1,211 | Florida Conference

Christine Kumar is a freelance writer and administrator, Baltimore Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington Conference. Send story ideas to interpreter@umcom.org.