Be reborn as you carry on, my friends

Centenary and St. Giles United Churches are delving into the stuff dreams are made on. It was just one year ago this weekend that United Church Moderator Gary Paterson preached at St. Giles 104th anniversary service. Centenary cancelled its service and came over to St. Giles and joined in, as did First-Pilgrim United Church. You can see a video file of Moderator Paterson’s sermon here:


Since then St. Giles and Centenary have been journeying on a road to merger. They were saddened when First-Pilgrim dropped out.

In June of this year St. Giles and Centenary threw their lot in together on a Sunday morning and began one common worship service each Sunday, alternating between the two sites by month.They are moving toward a formal vote to merge early in 2014.

During one of these common services of worship in September I asked the congregation(s) to think through and feel through with me the kind of merger they thought they might be embarking upon. I offered two different kinds of mergers for consideration: a continuation merger, and a rebirth merger.

A continuation merger is a blending of two congregations’ programs and styles. The other, a rebirth merger, is a new start, with the intentional dissolution of previous entities. While a continuation merger forestalls closing, the pattern of decline usually continues. Continuation mergers are least likely to result in growth and most likely to result in closing. The rebirth merger works best with a new location and new ministry personnel. It has a better track record than continuation mergers.

People present that Sunday wrote down on recipe cards which kind of merger they expected, added comments, and put the cards on the offering plate. I’ll say more about the comments they wrote in another blog post, but the numbers are interesting in themselves. Those anticipating a rebirth merger that day outnumbered those expecting a continuation merger by two to one.

in his blog post on November 28 2012 Moderator Gary Paterson ended with these words as he reflected upon his experience with us in worship on November 18 2012:

“Amalgamations are hard, I know. We are often wedded to a spirituality of place, church buildings rich with memories, where we truly were encountered by the Spirit. But we also know that the Spirit keeps moving and transforming, and we need to do the same. I wonder if these three Hamilton churches might all be willing to sell their buildings and bring the wisdom of their history and the power of their vision…and with God’s help, create a new church, a new mission.”