|A pleasant enough path through Hill Forest in Bahama, NC|
Staying home to take care of a husband with recent knee-replacement surgery gives me some extra time to write.
The reaction of church leaders to my suggestion that we sell the property before it was impacted by light rail still surprises me. At first, I went to leaders individually in their homes – both the established leaders and some of those who exert influence from behind the scenes. I expected shock, grief, anger, confusion, and defensiveness. I expected a wealth of caution. I did not expect what I would term happy interest. Their reaction both surprised and puzzled me. I thought: Okay, so they just need a few days to consider what I’m suggesting, and then out will come the anger. But it never did.
As time went by, there were negative congregational reactions to be sure, but anger was never one of them. I sometimes wonder if I caught the congregation at a point in its life cycle where all the “fight” had been taken out of them. The church had experienced significant conflict among themselves and with the previous pastor just two years previously over the building of the new sanctuary. Worship attendance, already low, had crashed.
In my initial conversations with church leaders about selling the property, what I mostly heard was an openness to both ideas. Admittedly, some were dead-set against merging with another church; the option of merging with a small church had been offered to them previously and rejected. But they had never considered merging with a large, healthy church. There are three large, healthy United Methodist churches in Chapel Hill.
As time has passed, I have learned that being open to an idea is quite a different thing than committing to the work and changes involved in actually doing it.
But congregational leaders being open to the idea of selling the property and doing something different was all I needed at that point. Because I wasn’t sure if Aldersgate would be allowed sell anyway, I made an appointment with the district superintendent, to talk things over.