Congregational Care

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galations 6:2

At First-Centenary the wellbeing of all our members is a concern. Our program is shaped to share joy with people at their times of celebration and also to support them in their times of greatest need. Congregational Care is one of the areas where a cadre of volunteers participate in fulfilling the mandate of "bearing one another's burdens and fulfilling the will of Christ..." as referenced in the New Testament letters of Paul.  It was the church of Galatia that received this specific message that was consistently emphasized by the Apostle Paul to churches everywhere.
Paul also emphasized Jesus’ great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Caring takes on many forms, and listed below are some of the ways in which we serve as a thriving and caring congregation. Included are some of the opportunities through which our members faithfully serve others. If you would like to participate in any of the areas included or have thoughts to share about other needs within the congregation, please contact Reverend Laura Shearer




The Memorial Garden is designed to provide a space for the interment of ashes of deceased members of the First-Centenary United Methodist Church family.  In the past, cemeteries were often located on church grounds; it is appropriate that a space of beauty and tranquility be provided for those who prefer burial in the church garden.  The garden serves as a place for rest, meditation, and prayer.
First-Centenary should be notified as soon as possible when a death occurs.  The funeral home should also be notified, so that arrangements for cremation may be made.  The church will furnish an urn and a suitable covering, approved by the Garden Mission, for use during the service.  The burial service may be held in the church, followed by a procession to the Memorial Garden for the committal of the ashes.
The Business Manager is responsible for the administration of the garden and will assign plots based on a grid with numbered spaces. Spaces will be assigned in numerical order at the time of death. Remains will be placed consecutively; no particular place may be reserved.




The name of each person whose ashes are committed in the garden will be inscribed on an individual bronze name plate, along with the year of birth and of death.  This plate will be attached to the large, permanent memorial plaque located on the garden wall.  The names will be listed in chronological order by date of death.  
Landscaping and upkeep of the garden is an ongoing responsibility of the Garden Mission.  The design and planting of the garden will be under the supervision of the Garden Mission.  There will be no individual floral arrangements or other decorations within the garden.  It is anticipated that the garden will be available for interment in perpetuity.  In the event that all plots are used, remains may be reverently interred in previously used spaces, after a period of ten years. The intention is for the interment of ashes in previously used spaces to be in the order in which the spaces were initially used.
All First-Centenary members, past and present, their spouses and children are eligible for interment in the garden. Exceptions will be considered at the discretion of the minister and the Trustees.



Application Procedure

The cost for interment only is $600.  The initial deposit is $300, with the balance of $300 due within one year of the deposit. The deposit is payable at the time of application. This cost includes the price of the marker.  The cost of the cremation itself is a separate expense to be determined by a funeral home.  In the event that $600 has been paid and the family decides to make other arrangements, $300 will be returned.  Pre-payment may be made for both options.
Memorial gifts are welcome and may be made to the church at any time.  These funds will be placed in the Memorial Garden Fund, reserved for the maintenance and furnishing of the garden.
Application for burial in the Memorial Garden may be
made in the Church Office.

Prayer Ministry

First-Centenary is a praying congregation and our members share their love for Christ and one another through prayer.  Some specific areas of emphasis for saturating our church in prayer are listed below:

Prayer Team

A group meets weekly, on Mondays in the Parlor.  Members are invited to join this faithful group as they pray for confidential requests from prayer cards that have been submitted during the worship services.
Please contact Rev. Shearer or church staff to receive information about the time the group is meeting.

Prayer Chain

Members of the Prayer Chain receive prayer requests each week and pray daily. This is an ongoing and vital part of First-Centenary’s history of praying for the various prayer concerns


An assigned lay member meets with clergy and others participating in worship prior to worship services. Those participating in the worship experience are included in the prayer.

How can we pray for you?

Congregational Care Team 

This team includes clergy and laity who make contact in a number of ways with our members who are no longer able to be as active as they once were.

Upper Room delivery

Upper Room devotionals may be delivered upon request.  The delivery time is a means of making personal contact and may serve as a means to stay connected with the local church activities and its members. Our volunteers brighten the day of those they visit. 

Hospital visits

Along with clergy, several lay persons visit members of the congregation who are hospitalized.  With emphasis on patient privacy, some of our visiting team members are certified HIPAA trained lay servants.

Nursing Home/ Assisted Living

Persons on our WE CARE  list receive regular visits from Clergy and our faithful volunteers.  As part of the visit, Holy Communion is often blessed and shared with those who are shut-in. 

Phone Ministry

Volunteers make regular phone calls to our members no longer able to be active. 

Silver-Link Ministry

Volunteers address birthday cards to be sent to our 80+ members each month.

Senior Adult Ministry

Members who are over age 70 are invited to attend an Annual 70 Plus Luncheon.  This is a time of expressing gratitude and reflection.  Others may volunteer to assist!

Bereavement Matters

Congregational Care includes care of our members and their loved ones during illness, loss due to death and beyond.  The death of a loved one is always difficult. We need comfort and assistance during this time, even when we think we have been emotionally prepared.  

We provide a guide to families and individuals that is helpful to use when considering making a plan for this time.  Please refer to our Memorial Services and Services of Death and Resurrection guidelines. Clergy are available to counsel with you during your pre-planning efforts.  Please contact the church to speak with our Congregational Care Minister, Rev. Laura Shearer, or send an email to to set an appointment.

GriefShare - We all face seasons of grief at some point in our lives and First-Centenary is here to aid in getting you through the tough times.  You can find encouragement and help to support you through the death and loss of a variety of relationships. GriefShare is a program delivered through a support group over a specific number of weeks for those who are bereaved.  A group will be planned as interest arises.  Please call Rev. Laura Shearer if you would like to participate in a group.

Congregational Care office - 423. 756.2021 ext. 3106

Reverend Laura Shearer

Minister of Congregational Care

Laura joined the First-Centenary clergy staff in July 2020, coming out of clergy retirement which followed 15 years of clergy service and a lifetime of service as laity.  She began in the United Methodist Church in Warrenton, Georgia, where she grew up and first sensed God’s presence and call as a child. Her call to ordained ministry was realized in the 1990s when she was working as a counselor in the Chattanooga area.

She graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 2003 and pastored congregations in Cleveland and Knoxville before serving for 14 years as Holston’s pastoral counselor to clergy families. Laura is delighted to serve the congregation at First-Centenary.  Her interests include counseling and spiritual growth and development,  sacrament and worship.

Laura’s sense of her role is to help others sense God’s presence which is the strength of her own life.  Her favorite scripture passage is in 1 John, particularly chapter 4 verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

Laura is wife to John, mother to her sons Robert, Christopher and Benjamin Whitelaw and their wives Michelle, Sofia and Jana, and grandmother to 7 delightful grandchildren.  She loves gardening, watercolor painting and visiting estate sales.  “Old things carry precious stories of the lives of people! I love to imagine what they have to say!”