To Merge, or Not To Merge?
April 28, 2023
in Pastor's Weekly Message
This Sunday, the membership at both Sanctuary and St. Mark’s United Methodist Churches will vote in their own meetings whether to merge functionally and legally into one church. Sanctuary started this conversation with us in the fall, and our leadership began having conversation in November. In January, a task force assigned by our Covenant Council began meeting to explore the possibilities and what it might look like. Our work focused on how it could work, and we have shared those results with you. Now, members of the church get to decide if we want to do the work.
As I have gotten to know St. Mark’s over the last two years, I’ve discovered us to be a church that cares for other people and for our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Through our missions work, we seek to alleviate suffering in the world, and especially in our community. We see this in our partnership with Market on the Move, with ICS, with TIHAN, with Nash Elementary School, and with others. Through our discipleship work, we seek to help others to connect more fully with Jesus Christ. We see this in our commitment to personal growth in our faith life through studies and small groups, through our commitment to youth and children’s growth, through our offer of midweek worship and connection. In all these things, we live out our mission to “Change the world through Christ by caring for all people.” In all of this, we continue the work John Wesley began in the early Methodist movement to a personal AND social holiness. In all of this, we continue the work of Jesus, who commanded his disciples and all who would follow to love God and love neighbor.
I support this merger because I see it helping us in continuing this work, continuing to change the world. I see this merger as a logical next step after the multi-site work that we did before we launched Dove Mountain. We will be able to reach new people who would never step foot in a traditional church building but who are hungry for the grace and peace that Christ offers. We will expand our reach into the community in a different geographic area, in partnership with those at Sanctuary who already long to do that. We will change a bigger part of the world as we offer the good news of Christ through the work of the church in a different place. All of it is rooted in the desire to bring others to the good news of Christ.
The timing and circumstances are right for a change of this kind as well. We are shoring up the systems of outreach and care through the work of Ministry Architects. We are scheduled to do work around mission, vision, and values this fall with Ministry Architects, and we can do it with a newly merged congregation. We are not bursting at the seams in worship yet, but continue to have new visitors and new members joining. Sanctuary has more giving and attendance than this time last year. We have one pastor who was reappointed, allowing for space for a new configuration of pastoral staff to accompany a multi-site model. We did the work already to explore multi-site ministry; we have the chance to once again put it into practice. In addition, Sanctuary received word that it will receive a break on rent for 12 months and will be able to utilize their space in a way that will bring in revenue, which can help the financial outlook. All of this leaves room for a new thing that’s this big, and I believe God is leading us in this direction, even though it’s big and huge and scary!
But I do not get to choose this path for St. Mark’s. While I believe the task force has given a compelling reason for merging and has shared how we can do it effectively, the task force is only a small group. You who are members of St. Mark’s get to decide if we are going to take the path the task force has laid out or if we are going to continue to be a one-site church on the corner of Magee and La Cañada. If we merge with Sanctuary, we have hard work ahead of us to become one congregation in two locations, reaching new people and changing the world for Christ. There are challenges to overcome but it can be done. If we do not merge, then we have hard work ahead of us to continue to reach new people and change the world for Christ. There are challenges to overcome, but it can be done. Your vote on Sunday will plot the course for us.
There is still time for your questions to be answered. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question you want answered before Sunday. Otherwise, we will see you at the meeting at 11:30 a.m., either on Zoom or in person.
And please pray for discernment as you prepare to vote. How is God leading us in this time?
See you soon,
- 8:30 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Youth and children’s Sunday School and child care (except fifth Sundays)
- 10 a.m. Livestream premieres on YouTube and Website
To access our livestream service:
- From the main menu on our website click “Worship.” -OR-
- Go to YouTube and search for UMC St. Mark’s Oro Valley or use this link.