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The Church That Almost Died

My church is in the process of blending our Methodist congregation with a Lutheran congregation. It’s been an interesting journey. It started when we rented out space to them. Years later, when our pastor left and our small church couldn’t entice a Methodist pastor, we hired their part-time pastor to also be our part-time pastor. He preached for the Methodists at 9:00am and the Lutherans at 11:00am. Then COVID hit. As we moved from in-person to online services, we combined forces to put on a single online service. It seemed silly to put on two virtually identical services. As COVID moved on and restrictions began to lift, the debate over restrictions hit our attendance hard. Between normal church politics and dislike of COVID restrictions, people found reasons to not come to church. People left the Lutheran church because the Lutherans didn’t have as strict restrictions as the Methodists had and it was decided to go with the stricter application. People left the Methodist church because the restrictions seemed so overblown. As we began talking about the possibility of joining forces, some left wanting to keep their individual denominational identity. Lack of attendance meant lack of giving. Our churches couldn’t survive separately. We shared pastors, staff, services, and the buildings. Our denominations were very similar in theology. It was decided to officially combine to be a single church.

Our church almost died. Six years ago, our district superintendent predicted we’d have five years before our church would close. That, at the time, seemed likely but God had other plans. We watched our attendance dwindle for quite a while but then, something amazing happened. We committed ourselves to serving the unhoused – a large population in our community. We opened a free pantry and host a clothing bank and the Cold Weather Shelter. We decided to focus on being a welcoming church. We participate in Pride celebrations and let it be known all are welcome. We offer a women’s retreat every year. People began to respond. We started with a few visitors but as word spread, people wanted to check us out. We began to grow.

We’re still small but God is at work. We’ve begun offering programing for those interested. We have Adult Sunday School and Bible Studies. We offer a women’s retreat every year. We have a choir. We’ve begun to have children present and rejoice in seeing this curious toddler exploring the church during services. It’s a blessing to know this child will grow up with a village of people who love and appreciate her. Two boys have blessed us with their musical interests.

If you’re looking for a place with a lot of love to give, a place to be accepted and welcomed just as you are, come check us out. We offer services online. They aren’t polished and we don’t have a house band although we do have musicians who share their gifts. Our choir welcomes all: those with beautiful voices and those with beautiful souls. In our church all are welcome; all are accepted; all are loved.

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