THE WAY AHEAD: NEXT STEPS – JOINT CONGREGATIONAL MEETING
Saturday 11 May 2019, 10:00 AM – 12 NOON
Hunter River Community Hall
Please read the following carefully and prayerfully before the meeting on 11th May.
This study paper does not advocate any particular option
but is offered to help focus our decision-making process.
In the Spring of 2018 we conducted two very well attended visioning events to look at the long-term future and viability of our congregation(s). The theme for the event was taken from Jeremiah 29:11—
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
The event also addressed the potential for amalgamation and, in a “straw poll” exercise, approximately half of those present indicated a preference for amalgamation into one church with (when combined) an almost equal number preferring options other than amalgamation into one.
In light of the input from these meetings, the Joint Session recommended an experimental year to try some outreach opportunities and assess the potential for growth in each congregation, with the promise that we would return to congregation in May 2019 to assess progress and determine next steps. The most impactful change has been the move to weekly worship services at set times in each church.
On Saturday, 11 May 2019, we will gather the congregation(s) again for the promised assessment and to make some choices about “next steps.”
The first part of the meeting on 11 May will be given over to input “from the floor” inviting your responses to one simple question: “In this experimental year, what have you found helpful and what have you found unhelpful?”
It is often said that the worst part of any illness is waiting for a diagnosis. The same is true in the current process, we need to bring the waiting and uncertainty to an end so that our ministry and mission can find its focus and direction.
Because we are a charge of three individually constituted congregations the options outlined below will be put to the meeting on 11 May in a secret ballot as an “indicative” or “advisory” vote to guide the Joint Session in making a formal recommendation to the congregations.
Each congregation will then need to vote independently to adopt any proposal arising out of the 11 May meeting. The process may seem cumbersome but is essential to protect the rights of each congregation.
Wisdom and Faithfulness
As we move through this process we want our decisions about the future of our congregation(s) to be both wise and faithful. Wise, in that we have carefully considered the opportunities and challenges raised by each option. Faithful, in that the decisions we make help fulfil the mandate we have been given by Christ to “make disciples.”
The potential viable options have really not changed since the original visioning meetings a year ago but are laid out below in more detail than before.
Amalgamation into a single-point charge at Brookfield.
Amalgamation into a two-point charge at Brookfield and Hunter River.
Maintain the status quo at Brookfield, Hunter River and Glasgow Road.
Amalgamation into a Single Point Charge
Option #1 involves the amalgamation of all three congregations into one congregation with one building at Brookfield, which has the largest Sanctuary and hall space with a full kitchen and two washrooms. The building is structurally sound and with a new steel roof but is certainly in need of updating and a fair amount of “cosmetic” work.
The advantages of amalgamation into one are what they have always been: the Brookfield building has high visibility and easy access on Hwy 2 and is fairly centrally located in terms of the current congregational living patterns – including Hartsville, should that congregation at any time choose to be folded into the charge.
Option #1 gathers all the congregations’ people, activities and resources into one. Advantages include an immediately viable Sunday School, combining of the great musical talents currently spread across the charge, more people to share the leadership/work load, and the renewed energy that comes from working together.
Amalgamation into a Two Point Charge
Option #2 involves the amalgamation of Glasgow Road and Brookfield into one congregation at Brookfield, with a second point at Hunter River.
Amalgamation of Glasgow Road and Brookfield would gather the great majority of active young families with children under one roof, utilizing the Brookfield building to take advantage of its location and size for current and future programs/outreach. It garners some, but not all, of the advantages listed for option #1.
Maintaining a presence “in the village” allows us to take advantage of Hunter River’s location, including its proximity to the school, as a community hub and a focus for outreach and creative ministry, although to release that potential would require making the Sanctuary a useable multi-purpose space.
Option #2 would also maintain 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. services allowing us to offer different worship experiences.
Maintain the Status Quo
If option #3 is interpreted strictly in terms of keeping all three church buildings, it means returning to the previous rotating worship schedule.
If option #3 is interpreted in terms of maintaining the current weekly service at each church, it means that a second part-time minister is required.
Maintaining the status quo is a legitimate choice. It is also the most comfortable and least disruptive option since it means that all three church buildings remain open and no difficult decisions need to be made; however, potentially, it may also be the riskiest decision as it does not address the steady decline of recent decades or the concerns of young families with children looking for viable programs.
If option #3 is chosen, no further confirmation is required by individual congregational meetings.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
What will it cost?
Currently, each congregation carries the costs of maintaining and operating its own building/programs while also contributing to the Joint Charge budget mainly, but not solely, to cover the costs of stipend and housing for the minister. The cost of stipend and housing remains unchanged in all three scenarios, while options #1 and #2 reduce operating costs or, more pro-actively, release funds to be used to encourage outreach and growth.
Using the information provided by each congregation’s annual reports, the costs for 2019 break down as follows (rounded up to the nearest dollar):
Operating Expenses Dues/Pension* Joint Charge
Hunter River $5,900.00 $1,800.00/1,200.00 $21,000.00
Brookfield $7,700.00 $1,484.00/1,207.00 $15,000.00
Glasgow Road $7,060.00 $1,607.00/1,500.00 $21,000.00
*Dues includes Presbytery and Synod Dues which are calculated as a percentage of the “dollar base”, and Presbyterians Sharing which is a suggested allocation accepted (or rejected/amended) when the budget is considered at the Annual meeting.
*Pension is the “employer” portion paid to the church pension plan by each congregation. It is calculated on the congregation’s “dollar base”.
The “dollar base” is the congregation’s regular annual income, not including fund-raising for capital projects, debt repayment, or donations to Presbyterians Sharing, PWS&D or other mission projects. Neither the dues nor the pension contributions would be much impacted by an amalgamation.
Why does Glasgow Road close in both Options #1 and #2?
The issue with Glasgow Road is one of size and location, but primarily location and visibility – it has a beautiful site, but it is the smallest, least central and least visible of all three churches.
If we amalgamate, what happens to the buildings?
In any amalgamation all the assets of the amalgamating congregations become the assets of the new congregation, including buildings. Any surplus building(s) would be sold and any income derived from the sale(s) would belong to the new amalgamated congregation, although a minimum 5% would need to be paid to the PCC.
In terms of building contents, as much as possible, memorial items (e.g., stained glass, sacred furnishings, etc.) would be integrated into the building retained for use or, where necessary, offered as mementos to the original donors or their families.
Will Rev. Kay stay or leave?
Rev. Kay has made it clear that he is willing to continue to serve the congregation no matter what decision is made subject to the congregation’s invitation and the presbytery’s approval. Rev. Cathy’s status depends more on which scenario is adopted and any other options open to her, and needs to be negotiated with her accordingly.
Will we lose people?
Yes. No matter what decision is made we will lose someone. But we have been losing people for a long time – especially young families as they drift away from church altogether or have moved to other churches which have more to offer them and their children.
Will amalgamation solve all our problems?
No. Amalgamation is only a step -admittedly a very big step- towards creating the conditions in which the congregation may flourish, but none of the options outlined above is “THE” answer. We will still have to engage in more creative and active outreach if we hope to have a long-term future in our community.
A decision about our future direction needs to be made,
and is the congregation’s decision to make.