DISBANDING CONGREGATIONS WITH A BOOST
“I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate.”
Arthur Wing Pinero, 1893
It dawned on me that we can stay within the promises that our Methodist ancestors made in the 19th century when they chose to provide colleges and hospitals across our country and beyond, as a gift. There have been other awe-inspiring imprints that were made since those years by Methodist lay persons.
When I joined a Methodist church in the mid-1960s I met two prominent UCLA professors. Dan Gerlough, who became my wife’s American dad. He attended Cal Tech Pasadena and commuted to the college on the Pasadena freeway, the first in the nation. He realized that the 45 degree off ramps were hazardous when motorists braked suddenly. The young student managed to get the attention of the traffic department to alter the off tramps. He eventually became a traffic engineer who was credited with installing the signals we have on freeway ramps.
Ralph McKee, the Dean of Medicine, was a participant in discovering vitamin K.
Those two geniuses may have kept millions of humans to live longer. How many laity have contributed similar feats?
Forty years ago a Methodist magazine featured such lay persons monthly.
Times have changed drastically. My seminary has had to move from its present site partly because the land is too costly and many students are learning on-line. If the internet continues to capture most students in our universities there will be less need to have dorms and classrooms. Also, there will be no reason to have expansive and expensive buildings on campuses and fewer parking lots.
I just heard recently there will be less, if any, hospitals in the future. Diagnostics can be provided on-line. My sister has had a great physician for years. Recently, he prescribed a pill she needed for her back pain but it tended to get worse. She went on-line and discovered that particular pill intensifies back pains. She’s not giving up on her doctor but she is staying close to her computer.
Retirement centers can provide their occupants holistic health care until the end of life. A neighbor claimed we need more senior homes nearby so offspring can have their parents close by. We live a few blocks from such a retirement home. When I get to the point when I can’t take care of myself my wife says she will put me in a wheel barrow and take me down there. Sweet thing!
What if, when our churches have to close, they will link up with others shutting down throughout our denomination and the fiscal resources will go toward building retirement homes and providing scholarships for our country and beyond?
Many churches are sitting on foundations that may be worth billions of dollars within our denomination, money that often are used for in-house needs and remain in the coffers of districts and conferences when churches are closing with less and less new church starts.
The General church could commit those assets unconditionally and in this way honor our Wesleyan ancestors.
When the time comes to disbanding congregations it may help to invite former members who may have left those churches because they felt the denomination did not find a way to care for the culture at-large. The closing words of the Order of Disbanding a Congregation in the Book of Worship states “as we scatter into congregations we shall be one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.”