PART ONE – December 17, 2017
Esther 4:14 – If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? (NLT)
Last March, we faced a difficult annual meeting for our First Presbyterian Church in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada. The elders appointed me as their representative to give the bad news to the congregation: We were going to run out of money at the end of 2017. We all knew that this was coming, but now we had to face it. We had been living off our investments for 10 to 15 years, and the end was in sight. The very large building that we occupied needed repairs that were too expensive for us. It was falling down, with peeling paint and a leaky roof, beside so many other problems. Our numbers had declined also, as our community was shrinking. Manpower was a big issue.
So, our big decision was whether to stay until the money ran out, or else move to a temporary home until we could give the property to a developer who would build us a smaller, manageable sanctuary for the price of the property that he could develop for his own use. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Visions of bulldozers taking down our precious church, which those before us had worked so hard to build, filled our minds. What about the beautiful stained-glass windows?
If we stayed, then we would be like Esther's family in today's Scripture, and the congregation would be no more when the money ran out. Were we the congregation chosen to act bravely and step out in faith, not knowing exactly what would happen? Were we here for such a time as this?
The idea of the congregation dying was very real and close to home. We had seen it happen to other Presbyterian churches in nearby Niagara and to congregations of other denominations within our own town. Some had made decisions either to keep their building and let go of the minister or just to close down and not exist at all. We had about 120 people on our roll at the time, and we all felt like a large family. None of us wanted to see this happen, but we had to face reality.
The vote was taken, and by a very large majority, it was decided to move to a temporary home and ask a developer — who was already interested — to take our church. We had decided to move on. We decided to stay together. The change had begun! The elders were directed to speak to our overseeing presbytery for authorization, and on we go! Can we do it? Only with God! If He wants us to continue to worship together, we will be successful.
As worshipping congregations, do we idolize our buildings? Do they stand in the way of our doing God's will?
Prayer: Father God, in such a huge change, we ask that You would guide and bless this congregation and other congregations that might be going through the same kinds of decisions. Give us all the courage and wisdom to discern the difference between worshipping a building and worshipping You. Amen.
PART ONE – December 17, 2017