I've kept rather quiet on my blog about this subject, but there has been the potential for a rather big change when it comes to St Georges. About a year ago, St. James in Old Bowie reached out to us because they were in a situation where they were facing closure by the diocese, no thanks in part to the current recession. Rather than have to be forced to close, they examined their options and decided to explore a merger with St. Georges, which we accepted the idea of exploring as well.
So for the past year we have been in talks with St. James and toying with being a merged congregation. This has included shared worship services and social events, and getting to know one another. There have also been a number of meetings, both shared and apart, with consultants about the merger and what the next steps are. It hasn't always been easy either, along the way we have discovered that there are some differences that needed to be worked on, both within ourselves and with one another. One such item was having children participate in worship. Not everyone was comfortable with the idea that the kids were helping with the elevation of the bread and wine or with reading parts of the Great Thanksgiving. Also there would be those kids who were being kids so they would get noisy or wander and such, and while it wasn't minded so much at one chapel, it was a potential problem in another (think carpet vs hardwood floor and the noise level) so there was that issue to work out.
Another issue was the perception that not all members were so accepting of the GLBT folks that attended. Now I can't say I witnessed any of that personally, but there were folks who hinted that they had issues. I don't know for sure though, I think one or two of the stories were folks who were being so hypersensitive about perceived slights that they were quick to take offense.
But anyway, so there was a lot of work being done on the part of both parishes, and especially by the Merger Exploration Team. If anything they were making sure to keep us up to date as often as possible about what was going on.
So ultimately the final decision was looming. On December 14, each Vestry was going to meet and vote to decide whether to merge, or to end the process, or even extend the process if a bit more time was needed for some reason. Imagine my surprise today when I got this letter from my priest informing us that the St. James Vestry had met to see where they were in the merger process, and decided to vote to end the process now rather than wait until December 14.
This was not what I was expecting. I had not gotten the sense that folks from St. James were done with this process a bit ahead of time, and that they would decide to just let St. James close and leave rather than merge with St. Georges and keep going as a new entity. However, I can also understand some of the reasoning behind their decision. This process has taken a lot of work this past year, and when it has been the same people who have been involved throughout the process, it can lead to burnout, and I suspect that is a bit of what happened here. Still, I don't think this was a waste of our time either because it gave both parishes a lot of insight as to what was going on and how things could be different. St. Georges was probably coming due for a bit of a shakeup anyway because we have been coasting along for a few years now, and now we have some knowledge of where we are falling flat and could stand to fix.
I certainly hope that we made folks from St. James feel welcome enough that they will decide to come over to St. Georges. They were certainly gracious to us, especially when we were doing the play last month. There was a potential conflict with some dates, and they saved us a lot of trouble by letting us use their parish hall for a weekend of performances.
So from here on out, who knows what could happen or where God is calling us, but God certainly has a reason for why things have happened the way they did, and hopefully we can figure out how to take that experience and use it in a positive way.