Ending with Hope: A Resource for Closing Congregations

Front Cover
Beth Ann Gaede
Rowman & Littlefield, Jun 1, 2002 - Religion - 173 pages
Why is it we do funerals so well but often balk at even recognizing the death of a congregation? Couldn't we do grief ministry and funerals as well for social groups as we do for individuals?" challenges Gilson Waldkoenig, in his seminary classes. Waldkoenig, associate professor of church in society at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, contributes his special insights on the subject of church endings, in this unique and important book. Ending with Hope grows out of the understanding that although closing a congregation is in many ways about dying, it can also be about new life. Closing a congregation does not have to be about failure but can be about redirecting resources for new ministry. Contributors represent eight denominations and include more than a dozen pastors, lay leaders, judicatory staff, and others who have "been there"—who have helped congregations through the painful closing process. Resources include models for assessing whether a congregation should close; reflections on members' and pastors' experiences during closing; case studies; guidance for deciding what to do with a building; suggestions for selecting and preserving documents and artifacts; rituals for healthy closings; a survey of historical trends regarding closings; and other helpful materials.
 

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Contents

Discerning Gods Calling
3
Assessing Congregational Viability
16
Closing Churches in the Light of American Religious History
30
The Members Experience
43
The Pastors Experience
54
Merger as a New Beginning
64
A Judicatory Perspective
76
Stories about Closings
88
A Struggle to the End
112
Ending with Strength
121
Resources for Leaders
133
The Value of Ritual Making Meaning Forging Hope
134
Congregational Records and Artifacts
148
Deciding What to Do with the Building
157
Guidance for Decision Makers
167
Contributors
171

A Tale of Two Closings
91
Closing Rural Congregations
101

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About the author (2002)

Beth Ann Gaede has been an editor with the Alban Institute since 1995. A pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, she works as a freelance editor and writer for a variety of church-related publishers. She is editor also of Congregations Talking about Homosexuality (1998)and Size Transitions in Congregations (2001).

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