Months of prayer and soul searching for members and attendees of our church culminated last Sunday. Over the past many years, our attendance has been declining. That being the case, income was also declining. Yet the building and grounds still needed the same utilities and upkeep.
We weren’t without funds. We could continue as we were, but the question we addressed, as a church and as individual members, was, “Are we using this facility in the best manner to further the kingdom of God?”
Our honest answer before God was, “No.”
With that honesty, we further searched our hearts, individually and collectively, and finally concurred the best move was to merge with another congregation. That having been decided, and having taken proper steps according to the discipline of the denomination, a vote was taken and a merge was approved.
Thus, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, was our final worship service at the current site.
Like the rest of the congregation, I looked forward to the service with mixed emotions. Though this was a step in the right direction, we believed, it hurt deep down in our hearts to make this move. Yet, God had spoken. We claim His promise from Matthew 28:20, when Jesus said to His disciples, “… lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” At this point, we chose to adapt the quote to “even unto the merge.”
That being the case, we gathered one last time in OUR church building.
As I parked, I noted more cars than usual. Entering the building, I saw people who didn’t normally attend our church. I thought some who had come for the memorial service the day before must have stayed over and would leave after church.
Others arrived even as I pondered those thoughts. I was soon set straight. These were not people who had come from great distances for a memorial service held for the son of one of our own people. No, indeed. These were people from the church a few miles away with whom we are merging.
Sensing how we would suffer in this final worship service, many of that congregation chose to worship with us that morning. Their thoughtfulness, their compassion, their exhibition of God’s love reached deeply into my heart, as I’m sure it did to others to ease the sorrow we felt.
That same thoughtfulness, that same compassion, that same exhibit of God’s great love will welcome us into their midst next Sunday when, together, we celebrate the blending of two congregations. Each congregation brings its own strengths and weaknesses. God will blend the two groups into one stronger unit to better serve His purposes.
Did this exhibit of God’s love wipe away all the tears? No, of course not. But just as family and friends gathered the previous day for a memorial service to share in a sister’s loss of her son, thus making a difficult time easier to bear, so these friends who will become our new church family gathered to share our sorrow, to open their arms in Christian love, thus making our transition easier.
Their support was much appreciated! I’m sure it will be remembered as we gather next Sunday in their building for the first service as one congregation.
It’s the end of an era but the beginning of a new approach to ministry for this new congregation as our blended strengths (and weaknesses, too) are placed in God’s able hands to be used as He sees fit.
Their show of compassion set the stage for a fruitful ministry – together.
(Writer’s note: This is written of North Dover United Methodist Church on State Route 108 north of the fairgrounds. For those of you wondering about the Rob Mills Family concert scheduled in October, that will still take place at the usual time and in the same building as always.)