Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

S Shopper Stories


WESLEY CHAPEL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

A small congregation making a big difference

by Rob Lauer


Wesley Chapel in the Chuchkatuck area of Suffolk was built in 1850,  <BR>but the congregation’s roots extend to the late 1700s.

Wesley Chapel in the Chuchkatuck area of Suffolk was built in 1850,
but the congregation’s roots extend to the late 1700s.


]There is a passage of scripture that the Rev. Brandon Nichols often finds himself quoting to the members of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church.

“It comes from the fifth chapter of Ephesians,” he explains, “and it begins with these words: ‘Wake up, O sleeper.’”

Located on Kings Highway in the Chuckatuck area of Suffolk, Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church appears to be the idyllic sleepy country church. Built in 1850, the chapel is stunningly beautiful in its simplicity. Surrounded by green meadows, shady trees and white-fenced drives, the church seems to invite passersby to stop and rest.

The congregation’s roots extend back to the 1700s, and on any given Sunday morning, 30 to 40 people gather in sanctuary for worship. As with many faith communities these days, the congregation of Wesley Chapel is smaller and grayer than it was in the past. Brandon understands how congregants might dream of reviving that past—which is why he has made the verse from Ephesians his rallying cry.

“Smaller congregations often focus on their deficits,” he says, “but if they will wake up and look around, they can find renewed purpose and fulfilment in community service and outreach. Maybe we don’t have many families with young children attending, but there are older people living all around us who are wondering if they’ve been forgotten—by God, by others. We can reach out to them, connect and embrace them. Too often, congregations think it’s the pastor’s job to do that. They think they need his permission before they do something. My goal is to empower this congregation to follow their vision of how best to answer God’s call. They don’t have to wait for me to take that first step.  When they see a need, they can take action.”

The congregation of Wesley Chapel has done just that, forming a community service group. This past summer, the group planted a community garden on the church grounds.  The fresh vegetables they harvested were put on a community produce stand in the church parking lot. Several members also donated vegetables from their home gardens. Anyone passing by the church was free to take whatever vegetables they needed.

“Our community service group also put up a ‘Blessing Box’ in the parking lot,” Brandon explains. “We invite everyone to put items in the box that others might need—canned goods, toothbrushes, toiletries. Anyone in need can open the box and take from what is there. Through efforts such as these, we hope that people in the community will awaken to God’s presence in their lives.”



Rev. Brandon Nichols is passionate about outreach and mission to the surrounding community. The Blessing Box,<BR> in the parking lot of Wesley Chapel, is one way in which the congregation is helping the needy in Chuckatuck.

Rev. Brandon Nichols is passionate about outreach and mission to the surrounding community. The Blessing Box,
in the parking lot of Wesley Chapel, is one way in which the congregation is helping the needy in Chuckatuck.


Brandon’s passion for outreach and mission to the community can be traced to his call to the ministry.

“I was 14 and attending a youth event at Virginia Wesleyan College,” he recalls.  “The speaker was Rev. Clarence Brown. At the end of his message instead of asking if anyone felt moved to accept Christ, he said, ‘If anyone here feels called to full-time service in the ministry, please come to the back of the room and speak to us.’ It was totally unexpected, but I suddenly felt led to go to the back of the room.  The event ended, the band was playing loud music, and with the crowds dispersing, I couldn’t find anyone to talk to. I figured whatever I felt had just been one of those fluky ‘God things,’ so I decided to forget about it.”


“My goal is to empower this congregation
to follow their vision of how best to answer God’s call.
They don’t have to wait for me to take that first step. 
When they see a need, they can take action.”

—Rev. Brandon Nichols


“Then, two weeks later, I was talking with my dear sweet grandmother who was in her 80s,” Brandon continues. “When she asked if  I had given any thought to what I wanted to do with my life, I told her that I really wanted to be a minister. Well, she was jubilant! Her father had studied for the ministry but, because of health issues, was never able to pastor a church. So, she instantly saw in me a connection to my great grandfather’s calling.  My first thought was, ‘Why in the world did I say that to her? She’s going to tell my dad, and he thinks I want to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer.”

“Like a lot of people who feel called to the ministry, I initially tried to resist God,” Brandon confesses, shaking his head and laughing at what happened next. “When my Dad questioned me about what I told my grandmother, I lied. I said, ‘She must have heard me wrong. I told her I wanted to be lawyer.’ So, my dad said to my grandmother: ‘You heard him wrong. He wants to be a lawyer.’ My grandmother turned and looked at me, and I felt so convicted that I just had to tell my parents that I felt called to the ministry.”

After graduating from Great Bridge High School, Brandon attended Virginia Wesleyan College, earning a B.A. in Religious Studies with a minor in History in 2012. During his time at Wesleyan, he served as the president of the college’s chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa—the theological national honors society—and as the chair of Marlin Ministries—the college’s student ministry organization.  Brandon then went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Duke University Divinity School.

His time at Wesleyan and Duke ignited a passion for teaching—which he, in turn, has channeled into a special program at Wesley Chapel.

“Many lifelong churchgoers have questions about their faith,” he explains. “They might know the liturgy—know ‘the speak,’ but not the meaning. So, on the second Sunday of every month, we have an open Q&A session during the service. Anyone can ask me about anything about our faith. If I don’t know the answers, I’ll do the research and get back with them. Giving everyone permission to admit that they don’t know something and to ask questions has been very liberating. We invite anyone to visit us and bring their questions.”

“No matter who you are, we invite you to join us for fellowship and worship,” Brandon concludes. “We’re a small community striving to make a big difference right here in Suffolk.”




Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church

220 Kings Highway
Suffolk, VA 23432

757-255-2259