Combining small, declining churches into one larger one is an increasingly popular form of church planting. It requires the same visionary leadership and entrepreneurial attitude, and faces the same kind of challenges as the more traditional models.
In 2004, following three years of study and consultation, eight historic but struggling churches in New Brunswick were amalgamated into one new parish. A new program-size church now gathers each week in a local public school. Where our predecessor congregations were in steady decline, our combined attendance at this point is about 250 each Sunday. We decided that this new creation needed a new name, and the Church of the Resurrection topped our list–a name that perfectly reflects what God is doing in this new parish.
Why we did it
As in many places across Canada, shifting population distribution and urbanization have left us with church buildings in locations that can no longer support lively ministries. Increasing expenses coupled with reduced attendance have been a body-blow for many smaller churches like ours.
We have reorganized parishes again and again–tinkering with the multi-point and team-ministry models. But none of this has effectively stopped the decline. The decision to amalgamate and build again was a response to these challenges.
Where are we now
Amalgamation has enabled better multi-generational ministry. Our lively children’s ministry has up to a dozen teachers at times. We have hired a part-time youth minister and have active ministry with middle and high school students. Our worship is both traditional and contemporary, and a multimedia projector is used instead of books. In the spring an Assistant Curate is to begin here.
We have now purchased 4 acres of prime land at the heart of the most populated area of the parish. The lot is a church planter’s dream, located between the Post Office and the Subway on the main street. It is a highly visible lot and has a commanding view of the panorama of Grand Bay.
Questions and Challenges
We are in the midst of the middle phase of this work of Church Planting and there are two challenges in particular.
The real long-term measure of our success will be how well we are able to attract, evangelize, and turn into disciples those who were not previously living for Christ. Many in our parish hold this vision, but there remains a tendency toward an inward-looking stance.
A second challenge on any long journey is fatigue. This enterprise has been demanding in every way of our large leadership team, and there is no let-up in sight! It is vital for the future of this project that we continuously invite others into leadership and pass along the vision which has led us to this point.
Our Lord is at work in this Parish, bringing new people to himself and calling a community to deeper faithfulness. It will be exciting ministry for many years to come as we seek to cooperate with Christ who “makes all things new.”
The Ven. Vicars Hodge is Rector of the Parish of the Nerepis and St. John, and Archdeacon of St. Andrew’s.