Last Sunday our congregation met, and I shared updates about a number of exciting developments. Teams are working on the possibility of a free medical clinic and an after school program. While that work continues, another group is considering alternative uses to our church property. While there are any number of possibilities under the broader term, "alternative uses," two have emerged and are getting our focus at the present. A larger congregation is interested in purchasing the property, and we have learned of a similar-sized congregation that is interested in discussing a merger with New Summit.
So, here is the big announcement for this week, with some commentary to follow:
Starting on Easter Sunday, April 5, New Summit Presbyterian Church and Summit Springs Community Church will be sharing worship services together at New Summit's site for four weeks! During that time, we will focus on relationship-building. We will also research as many aspects of a church merger as we possibly can.
Now, this is a season for asking questions, and I'm sure you have a few! Here are a few of the big ones, and there are many, many others.
Are we going to merge with Summit Springs Community Church? Right now the ONLY thing we are doing is building a relationship, and learning about everything that goes into a merger. At the end of 6 weeks, we'll know more about what might be involved, and we'll make a decision about whether or not to pursue additional steps.
Are we going to sell the property, or a part of it? Right now we are ONLY considering options, and learning as much as we can. There will be several other "alternative uses" to consider in addition to the possibility of selling the property. A portion of it might be sold. A non-profit organization might lease space. Another congregation might lease space. We are very much in the learning and brainstorming phase of this journey.
What sorts of things need to be addressed if we consider a merger? The short answer is: EVERYTHING. Vision, Mission, Values, worship, staffing, leadership, finances, policies like our child protection policy, denominational connections, how membership happens, programming focus, children, youth, church calendars, name, website, publicity, etc.
What do we know for sure right now? We know that we have options, and several of them. We know that we have met some great people who follow Jesus at Summit Springs Community Church. We know that our congregations share much in common in our visions and our understanding of how God is calling us to serve our community. We know that building relationships between churches is a good thing. We know that we'd like to get to know the folks at Summit Springs better.
How will any decision (sale, merger, lease, etc.) be made? At New Summit, we'll follow the guidelines and policies established by our bylaws and administrative manual, and our form of government as established by the Presbyterian Church (USA). That means that our Session will be the primary decision-making body for many of these decisions. Our church has a wonderful history of communicating with the congregation and getting lots of congregational feedback, so you will be very involved in the process. There are some decisions, such as a sale of property, that require approval from both the congregation and the presbytery, a regional body in our denomination. Should we come to one of those decisions, we'll make sure everyone is consulted, and we'll follow the process.
What can I do to help? I am so glad you asked! (Notice how I did that?) You can get excited about what is certain to be a wonderful and chaotic month of April, beginning with Easter Sunday. You can invite friends and family to come and be part of something amazing and refreshing. You can make sure you will be here to participate. You can be thinking of every single question that crosses your mind that is in any way related to the future of New Summit. You can be sending me those questions, because you will probably think of something that others have missed.
Jesus is always on the move, and always inviting us to follow. The adventure of faith has some extraordinary twists and turns. I have no idea where this part of the journey will lead New Summit Church. Here are some things I do have:
I have confidence that, "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6, ESV)
I have confidence that God's ways are not our ways, and God's thoughts are not our thoughts, but God's purpose is always fulfilled! (My short summary of Isaiah 55)
I have confidence that, "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28, ESV)
These are exciting and hopeful times. I look forward to sharing the journey with you!