Rev. Kim Uchimura sharing her story at the Starbucks. Uchimura’s THE WELL church is about connecting with people in real life.
By Derek Maul
If you want to find Rev. Kim Uchimura, try her “office” at the Starbucks on Hwy 60 at Mt. Carmel. She’ll be studying sermon notes at her laptop or talking with someone she just met at a networking event.
Uchimura is a church plant specialist with the United Methodist Church (UMC); her new venture is “THE WELL: A United Methodist House Church Community.”
In 2010, Uchimura was completing a six-year tenure as associate pastor at St. Andrew’s UMC in Bloomingdale.
“I’ve been thinking about a church plant for several years,” she said. “But the funding just wasn’t there.”
That’s when she became interested in the house church model. By the time annual appointments were approved in 2011, Florida’s Bishop Whitaker was on board and THE WELL was a “go.”
“Our national church plant coach told me, ‘It’s about time the Methodists came to the table with this,’” Uchimura said. “It’s been very affirming.”
Uchimura was attached to the staff of First UMC Brandon and spent the balance of 2011 in research, study and most critically networking.
“I know there are people of faith out there who have dropped out of church or never felt comfortable going in,” she said, “That’s our target. For the person standing outside sometimes the church doors are too hard to go through.”
The new church, THE WELL, already has one house church in River Hills and two in development.
“Our emphasis is in both Valrico zip codes,” Uchimura said. “But we’re open to the entire area. We’re getting ready to start in Feather Rock.”
Officially, Uchimura works from First UMC on N. Knights Ave. But the Starbucks fits with her focus.
“I’m not cocooned in a church building,” she explained. “I’m working to be visible in the community. Jamie Westlake (pastor at First UMC) encouraged me by saying ‘If you expect to connect with people who aren’t in church, then Sunday morning is the best time to look.’”
So Uchimura devotes most of her time on networking and visibility, meeting people exactly where they are. It’s early days for THE WELL, but Uchimura feels positive and confident. She loves the interactive quality of church at home, and she’s not alone.
“One man told me, ‘This is terrific because I’ve always wanted to stop a sermon and ask questions! Now I can really understand how this is supposed to impact my everyday life.’