UPDATE FROM SEPTEMBER 17, 2020
Greetings all in the name of Christ!
Thank you so much to each of you who participated in our merger conversation with Dr. Stephens of Chapelwood UMC earlier this week. It was a great conversation. Between folks present on the Zoom call and those gathered in the sanctuary, we had around 60 folks participating! Many questions were asked and answered, and we still have a few questions yet to address. If you were not able to make the meeting, please click below to watch our conversation! It is very informative and enjoyable.
Chapelwood UMC has a strong history of merging with congregations and helping them to become stronger across the board. One recent success story is Fairhaven UMC. Chapelwood merged with Fairhaven in 2017, and since that time Fairhaven has seen an 80% increase in their two Sunday morning services. They added a youth ministry where once none existed, their preschool has grown, and their food pantry has served over 160,000 individuals since the pandemic began in March.
Most of you will remember that our own church has experienced a 64% percent increase in worship attendance over the last 6+ years, and I want to see that growth continue! The energy and synergy we would receive through this merger is the best way I can envision our growth continue, so I pray that you will continue to keep an open mind as we discern this process together.
As such, I want to invite you to attend another merger conversation. This will take place on Thursday, October 1 at 7 PM via Zoom. We will be talking with the pastor at Fairhaven, and several key leaders who went through the merger in 2017. We’ll be able to ask questions about what has changed, what is the same, how the process felt, and how the congregation dealt with this strategic step. I hope you can join us on Zoom, but if you cannot, please feel free to come to the Sanctuary at that time. We’ll have it open, and the Zoom call will be broadcast onto our screen. You’ll still be able to ask questions by communicating with the staff person who will be present in the sanctuary during the call.
The meeting ID for our Zoom call with Fairhaven is 354 459 9940.
There is no password.
I’m eagerly looking forward to a future with hope!
Yours in Christ,
UPDATE FROM SEPTEMBER 10, 2020
Greetings to all in the name of Christ!
If you’re in the habit of just skimming or not reading my weekly column, do me a favor and definitely read it this week as this contains critical information regarding the future of ministry at Grace UMC. This information won’t surprise many of you since I’ve been having conversations regarding this news, but for some of you, it may come as a surprise.
Along with many of our church leaders, I have been in conversations with Chapelwood United Methodist Church regarding a merger partnership with our church. We believe that this makes a lot of sense for a variety of different reasons that I’ll delineate for you below:
COVID-19 has wreaked much havoc in the lives and ministries of many churches across the country. For us, it has meant the evisceration of our business model. For the last 3+ years, our finance committee has created and we have approved budgets that depended heavily on revenue sharing from Grace Weekday School. By doing this, we’ve been able to increase our budget to include new ministries such as a new staff person for family ministries and outreach, as well as a vastly expanded music ministry. But because Grace Weekday School was forced to close for 87 days due to the outbreak of COVID-19, they are simply unable to share revenue like we planned, leaving us with a substantial cash flow crisis. Further, current projections predict that Grace Weekday School will be unable to share revenue at a pre-COVID rate for at least 36 months.
The Short-Term Rationale
The backing of a congregation as large and thriving as Chapelwood positions us for quick financial solvency without having to exhaust our reserve funds completely, cut staff, and cut ministry. By merging with a visionary congregation such as Chapelwood, we would be allowed to continue to focus on the current kingdom work we’ve begun here in The Heights. At the same time, it would relieve financial pressure and allow us the necessary time for plans to be made and carried out to recreate and rebuild a sustainable financial base. As it stands now, we will be unable to pay staff and all other ministry affiliated costs sometime soon after November 1, 2020, and will be forced to lay off staff and/or cut salaries. This would effectively negate the growth Grace has experienced over the last five years and represents a considerable step backward in the making disciples of Christ in our mission field. Rather than accepting that step backward, I have chosen to pray and search for other outside the box opportunities to arise that we may continue Christ’s important work in The Heights.
The Long-Term Rationale
This merger would provide us with an infusion of energy and a continued vision for a future with hope. This is not the last, desperate gasp of a dying church, but a strategic move forward that becomes the logical next step for our growing church building a sustainable ministry. By merging with Chapelwood, we will be more adequately positioned to better meet the needs of a community that is quickly changing and where new Christians need shepherding and discipling.
A merger between Grace and Chapelwood creates collaborative opportunities that would allow staff and laity at the newly combined organization to further extend the footprint of Christ in the thriving and growing community of The Heights. Between increased staff portfolios, additional ministry staff, improved campus facilities, and a larger Grace Weekday School, the potential to increase ministry and reach the flourishing community of the Heights is boundless.
No doubt, you’ll have questions upon questions, and I would be glad to answer them as best I can. However, I’d like to invite you to participate in a Zoom meeting with me as well as the Senior Pastor at Chapelwood, the Rev. Dr. John Stephens. We’ll do a presentation for you, talk about vision and future, and then allow you to ask questions that may arise.
This Zoom meeting will occur on Monday, September 14, at 7 PM.
Zoom information is as follows:
Meeting ID: 828 4400 1316
To a future filled with hope!
Yours in Christ,
UPDATE FROM AUGUST 26, 2020
Greetings all in the name of Christ!
Well, it is looking more and more like our region will be affected in some way (perhaps significantly) by Hurricane Laura. As such, there are a few important things of which I want you to be aware.
- The church will be closed on Thursday & Friday, August 27 and 28. We will reopen on Monday, August 31 assuming we have power and the campus is safe.
- We will likely be assembling flood buckets in the coming days/weeks in order to do our part to aid in the recovery effort. This will be a bit trickier than usual because we will have to be socially distanced and wear masks, but I think we’ll need to respond in some way to our community’s and neighbor’s needs. Stay tuned for details.
- We will still have worship available on both Facebook Live and on our website. If you have power, we hope that you can still join us!
This week in worship, we will continue our series on waiting (as we wait to see what Laura does!). We’ll hear from our Director of Family Ministries as she talks about times in her life during which she has waited, and how she and so many others can relate to the Biblical character Hannah. I’m excited to hear from her, and hope that you are, too!
See you this Sunday in the WAITING place!