By: David McPherson, Director of New and Vital Faith Communities
“It’s not about us!” That was the mantra in the sermon from Rev. Tom Kiracofe at the last service for Aldersgate United Methodist Church. Some pews were marked off for social distancing, but there were still people scattered throughout the nave, more people than the church had seen in worship for a very, very long time. People came to remember and to say “good-bye”.
It’s hard to stay upbeat when your church is closing. The people of Aldersgate had been faithful to the charge they were given over the last 70 years; they partnered with Wesley Center, formed discipleship opportunities, fed the hungry, gave to the poor, performed weddings, baptisms and funerals. They served God’s people who lived close to the church as well as those who lived around the world. But change comes whether we hand it an invitation or not.
Rev. Kiracofe shared about the times in his ministry when he had to follow Jesus to a place he really didn’t want to go. And then he said, “But it’s not about us!” He reminded people that it’s not fun having church members angry at you because they don’t agree with your stance on immigration, or inclusion or facing all of our “isms”! But Rev. Kiracofe said he and others do it because, “It’s not about us!”
For the past three years, Rev. Kiracofe led the members of Aldersgate Church through a discerning wilderness. The question: “Is our next step in ministry supposed to be an act of letting go and turning it over to another group of leaders who have a new vision for the area?”
Dayspring UMC’s clergy and lay leaders traveled beside Aldersgate during this journey. The vision was to turn Aldersgate UMC into Dayspring’s second campus. It sounded so simple in the beginning. But then reality of letting go started to settle in and the grief work began. There were long meetings, a lot of praying, intentional relationship building. District Superintendent Susan Brims and the Conference’s New Faith Communities Team walked along side both churches until the decision was finally made and a closing worship service date was set.
What the members of Aldersgate United Methodist Church decided to do took a great deal of faith and commitment on their part. They should be commended for the church’s many years of faithful service! They should be commended for thinking more about the ministry that is possible for the near future than about maintaining the past. There is much gratitude for their pastor, Rev. Tom Kiracofe who stayed with them throughout the process and always kept reminding everyone of a truth that has guided his entire ministry and life, “It’s not about us!”
Please continue praying for the people of Aldersgate and Dayspring. And, if your church is wondering what the next step in ministry might be for the church your serve, but you need some help, then please contact your district superintendent or the director of New and Vital Faith who will work with you and will be able to share some of the many resources of the Conference.