Three Church Update
Dear College Avenue Family,
I hope you have been keeping up to date, through the newsletters, on the meetings we have been having with our Conference Superintendent Russ Abel and teams from Riverside and High Street United Methodist. These meetings began back in October. Representatives from our Governing Board, Vision Team, and Location Task Force represented College Avenue. Our team members are Jennifer Murray (Governing Board), Jean Ammon (Governing Board), Eric Scherrer (Governing Board, Trustees), Alex Davis (Location Task Force, Trustees), Virgil Reynolds (Facility Manager), Rachel Gentry (Location Task Force, Vision Team), Loretta Parsons (Vision Team), Jessica Hamlyn (Location Task Force).
Our first meeting was on October 7, at College Avenue. At this meeting, we discussed the strengths and values shared by the three churches. We met again later in October at Riverside Church. At this meeting, we discussed the challenges facing all our congregations. These challenges included aging membership, facilities, and financial concerns. In November, we met via Zoom to discuss possibilities. We discussed what it might look like if we 1) made no changes, 2) made small changes, 3) started with a blank slate. We agreed that making no change was not a viable option. When we met in December, we looked at options for future ministry. These options included collaborative ministries, cooperative parishes, merger, and other possibilities. There were no decisions made at any of these meetings.
The three churches took a break from meeting in January. The individual teams were tasked with meeting with their pastors to discuss their thoughts and opinions for their congregations’ future. The Riverside team expressed the desire to continue exploring a merger with College Avenue. The High Street team concluded that they would be open to serving in ministry opportunities but were not interested in a merger. The College Avenue team also expressed an interest in merging with Riverside.
On February 10, the teams from Riverside and College Avenue met via Zoom with Conference Superintendent Russ Abel to inform him of our team’s decisions. Both teams are excited about the possibilities for future missional ministry that we could do together. We are looking forward to the possibility of joining together, not for survival but rather for missional purpose.
Movement toward merger has been set in motion. Superintendent Abel gave us some tasks to work on before we meet again in March. First, we are to form a merger team comprised of four people from each church. The Governing Board is in the process of selecting our four team members. Care will be taken to represent the congregation’s various demographics. These names will be given to the Superintendent by March 1. This team will begin meeting with a church consultant specializing in church mergers. The Consultant provided by the Annual Conference will lead us through this process.
There are two possible dates for this merger to occur. The two churches could officially merge in June at Annual Conference or go to a 2-point charge with Riverside in July while working out the merger details, and then officially merging in January. Rev. Abel would like us to give him our preference between these two options by March 15. Whether there is a merger in July or in January, there will be a need for only one pastor for the merged congregation or the 2-point charge. Therefore, either or both Rev. Turner, or I may be receiving a new appointment in July.
All of this is a lot to take in, I know! I want to assure you, in the words of my colleague Rev. Turner, that no decisions have been made concerning the 3 B’s. There has been no decision made about Budgets, Boards, or Bodies (i.e., leadership). I would add a fourth B – Buildings.
All this being said, our leadership and I covet your prayers. These are not dire times; these are exciting times! We are being given the opportunity for fresh inspiration and ministry possibilities. Be encouraged! God is at work!
Grace and Peace,