Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Three weeks ago I sat with another Administrative Commission that has been given the responsibility to dissolve a Presbyterian congregation. This means caring for the members and selling the building. As I proceed with the orientation, I hide my pain around the inevitable decisions that have to be made. These are God’s people. This is sacred space. Now it is a matter of faithful people executing a process that is designed to be caring, compassionate, and conclusive. On December 31, 2018, Elm Street Presbyterian Church will be dissolved.
The building where the church existed for 99 years is now for sale. The church building is a sacred space. It is where children are baptized, adults are married, and all receive the Lord’s supper. In this sacred space, souls have been encouraged, sin has been forgiven, and the love of Jesus has been the answer to a multitude of life challenges. As this sacred space is placed on the market, the presbytery works with reverence and respect for all this building represents.
The buildings our congregations occupy present a challenge for our churches and presbytery. It is not just about churches that close. Think of the resources each congregation puts into its buildings. These resources include heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, not to mention landscaping, roofs, gutters, tuck pointing, painting, and other maintenance. As congregation budgets decrease, maintenance is deferred until a major repair is needed. Even congregations with building endowments struggle. They must balance funds spent on the building verses those spent for ministry and mission.
While our church buildings can be challenging, they also represent a major investment of financial resources, time, and personnel. How can we use this investment to create community space, as well as worship space? How can our congregations become home to other organizations and non-profits in the community we serve. Many of our congregations are already using their buildings in this way. This is not a solution to extend our existence as a church, but to bring impact in our community through our greatest resource.
In 2019 we will host a series of workshops around building use. The Presbyterian Foundation will lead these conversations as part of their Small Member Church Forums. I will be sure to have sessions directed to all of our congregations as well. Together, we can help one another figure out how to use these sacred spaces in our communities.
Blessings This Advent Season.
Rev. Craig M. Howard