We’re back people of God! This Chapel Hill blog has been on a year + long hiatus as we got our electronic selves back together. Look for differing voices to post in the months ahead… but for now, make sure to read (if you haven’t) Pastor Chad’s informative Voice on the Hill article about the area United Methodist Connections conversation and the First UMC and Chapel Hill Consolidation Team. It will be helpful to understand the language as all of this moves forward. And pray on, Chapel Hill, pray on…
Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ:
Two years ago, Chapel Hill gathered with the other United Methodist Churches in Battle Creek and began conversations around doing ministry together. Over time, that group became known as United Methodist Connections Battle Creek. We have started some joint ministries, come together for worship, shared ideas, and really just gotten to know one another better. This group continues to meet. We continue to seek ways we can support each other in ministry. The Gleaning, an urban garden project on site at Washington Heights, is one of the ministries that started as a result of our gathering. The next collective gathering is planned for October 4, when we will gather for worship on World Communion Sunday in a single combined service at First United Methodist Church.
UM Connections continues to grow in scope. It is the intention of the group to offer a community calendar that will afford folks who are worshiping in one congregation to share study and fellowship opportunities with other congregations as their calendars allow. The name and the function of the group are intentional. We aim to be more connectional in the ways United Methodists are doing ministry together in this community.
Out of these gatherings emerged some energy and interest in exploring ways we might “connect” in more concrete ways. Words like merger and consolidation began to enter our conversations. We began asking questions about ways ministry might look different if we combined assets up to, and including, the buildings. To be honest, there were some conversation partners who didn’t feel like this was a direction their congregation wanted to pursue. For others, First UMC and Chapel Hill to be specific, the possibilities began to become a larger part of our dialogue. This created some tension in our meetings and slowed progress both in seeking shared ministry opportunities and in conversations around consolidation.
As a result, in June, a separate conversation began between First UMC and Chapel Hill UMC that focused more directly on exploring more concrete ways of coming together. Once again, this conversation includes every option up to, and including, becoming a single congregation. We are calling this group the Consolidation Team. Both Administrative Councils (Ministry Team at Chapel Hill) voted to move forward with this dialogue. There are six lay representatives from each congregation on the team and two pastors. Chapel Hill’s team consists of: Linda Grap, Dave Hawks, Dick Schlatter, Mark Crawford, Janet Evans, and Jeff Hovarter along with Pastor Dave and myself.
The Consolidation Team has engaged the services of a third party consultant to help guide our conversations and to insure that we can discuss the most difficult of issues in constructive and productive ways. The consultant can approach things without history, tradition and sentimental attachment to the physical things and encourage the rest of us to do the same. I am extremely pleased with the way God has brought our team together and am looking forward to working with these folks.
All Consolidation Team meetings are public meetings. Anyone is welcome to listen in. However, in order that we keep the group on task, we ask that observers share their input through appointed representatives. Meeting notices will be published on the Chapel Hill Calendar.
In short, UM Connections and the Consolidation Team are not the same thing. UM Connections includes all seven United Methodist Churches: Birchwood, Chapel Hill, Christ, First, Maple, Trinity, and Washington Heights. (Convis Union is involved in Vital Church Initiative [VCI] and is currently not actively participating in Connections.) As of now, the only two congregations involved in the Consolidation Team are First and Chapel Hill.
I hope this provides some clarity around what is happening with, and between, the United Methodist Churches in our community. As we continue to discuss progress of these two groups we will do our best to distinguish UM Connections (all seven churches in community) and the Consolidation Team (First and Chapel Hill). Please keep both groups in your prayers as the desired outcome for each is reaching more people and making more disciples for Jesus Christ. We cannot do that without prayer support.
Be blessed and be a blessing!
Pastor Chad Parmalee