Archive for the Category ◊ Church Closings ◊

Author:
• Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Post by
Linda Hilliard and Gretchen Switzer
Authors of “Finishing With Grace”

Welcome to the Seasons of Grace Blog.   We are Linda Hilliard and Reverend Gretchen Switzer and our new book “Finishing with Grace: How to Sell, Close or Merge a Church” has just been published!  We have established this blog to connect with our readers and further explore the dynamics of congregations throughout their lives. This blog is meant  to reach  church folks around the country as we reflect on the many issues that arise for all of us as church members trying to be faithful.  Thanks for joining us!

WHO ARE WE?

Linda was moderator of Grace Congregational United Church of Christ in Framingham, MA and is a past chair of the Committee on Ministry (MA).  Linda is an editor/writer who owns her own  communications  business.   Gretchen has twenty-one  years experience as a United Church of Christ pastor.  Eighteen of those years, she was an Intentional Interim Minister specializing in churches-at-risk  and  she was the  interim minister at Grace Church.   Gretchen also has training in church growth  and served on the Church Development Committee for the Ohio Conference, UCC.

Several years ago, when Grace Church faced the difficult task of selling its building, we often said, “If only there was some kind of handbook that we could use to make this easier.  Finishing with Grace  is that handbook.

Thousands of churches close yearly, affecting tens of thousands of the faithful.  Reasons for church closures run from aging congregations to conflict, from dwindling funds to  pastoral betrayal.  Such churches need help determining how to proceed.

Finishing with Grace chronicles the process of making life-altering changes in your congregation and provides guidance for approaching the  practical, spiritual and emotional aspects of having to sell, merge or conclude your church‘s ministry.  The purpose of this book is not to advocate the closing of churches, but to teach congregations who are without other options how to move through this time faithfully.  This book will be helpful to any church who is in major transition.

Here is an excerpt from our book:

” You are not alone.  There are many like you who know exactly what it feels like to love your church and see its demise on the horizon.  The emotions that this realization can evoke within us are often more powerful than we anticipate.  The ending process is fraught with meaningful memories of family and friends.  “This is where we had little Jimmy’s funeral.”  “I remember every moment of Samantha’s baptism here.”  “I always dreamed of getting married in this sanctuary.”  Many of us grieve the loss of our community of faith as deeply as we might grieve the death of a dear, deep friendship.  The potential loss of our church home can also cause our  faith to waiver a bit, no matter how strong it really is.  “How could God just abandon us?  “Why did God allow this to happen to us when we have tried so hard to be faithful?”  There may be anger toward God and there will be anger toward those we believe “caused” the problem in the first place, whether that was an unskilled, unaware or abusive pastor, a lousy or dishonest treasurer, a money-minded bishop or that bunch of folks whom we see stubbornly holding the church back from moving forward…”

Here’s what one of our readers said:

“I just finished your book. I loved it! What a fantastic job of addressing every single issue that is involved with such an emotion-fraught, tension-fraught, detail-fraught process!  This will be incredibly helpful to congregations considering this possibility, and will, in fact, give them the tools they need and the courage to go through this process.  You lead a congregation step-by-step through every detail of this process, as well as naming the deep emotional layers, both conscious and unconscious.  I especially love the stories and anecdotes – both real and useful. You describe how to talk about everything and creative ways to deal with the wide variety of responses to this “earth-shaking” and “faith-shaking” decision – and how it may even deepen faith.  The memory-keeping ideas are terrific.  Lovely, fantastic job! ” Reverend Terry Fitzgerald, Pastor, United Congregational Church United Church of Christ,  Worcester, Massachusetts.

Watch this blog for

• updates on responses to Finishing with Grace

• our views on  the joys and frustrations of church life from beginning to end

• our personal perspectives from the pew and the pulpit.

• an announcement of our plan to launch an exciting newsletter for congregations.

Thanks!

To Purchase “Finishing With Grace” click here

Click here to email Linda and Gretchen

Category: About The Book, Church Closings  | Comments off