Church Merger

I have written before on these pages about the Church situation here in the Village. The bottom line is we have three Orthodox Churches in a town that can barely support one. So we have begun, once again, talks on merging the three churches. So my question is how do you merge a Greek, Albanian, Romanian Church into something that can work? Okay I know we pray and rely on God and those are great suggestions but I need some practical advice on how to lead, or dare I say shepherd, this little exercise!

The three churches have existed for about 100 years. Not all of them of course we are the youngest of the three. And we all have property, ethnic identity, traditions, oh and least I forget lamb recipes for our picnics. We all celebrate liturgy a little different and we all have songs that we like to sing. We share the Orthodox faith, but the three churches are very different. This is sort of like the Brady Bunch or Yours Mine and Ours!

Last night we had a Parish Council meeting and we were discussing the plan. As it is laid out right now two of the three churches will have a joint parish council meeting in February to discuss weather or not we wish to merge into one parish. Then we will appoint a commission of say three or four people from each church to answer questions such as property, diocese, clergy, and oh yes the lamb recipe. We are setting a three to five year plan for all of this so nothing will happen tomorrow and we all need to be patient. Or as patient as we can be under these circumstances.

On Sunday I passed out a survey and asked questions about the good points and the not so good points, I am avoiding using the term bad, of this merger plan and most were very positive and all had to do with unity and the survival of the Orthodox Faith in the Village. If we stay the way we are we will cease to exist in less than five years. For example the average age in my parish is 62 and not getting any younger. So here we are trying to make something happen. With much prayer we will seek God blessing in all of this.


  1. Grass roots! Glory to God!

    Having lived in a place where (for a time) *5* parishes didn’t talk to each other at all this is wonderful to hear – not your struggles, but rather your actions.

  2. Fr.P: We have been set-up for disaster by the survey questions which caused, I feel, a regression. The tongue lashing has set our mission backward with its negativity. It is a mistake to focus on the problems without focusing on first: “Do we Merge because of the inevitable demise of Orthodoxy in our town.” The only question is Do we want to accompish this merger? (Do or Die). When we can say YES, then its “How do we get there? We cannot put the cart before the horse. We cannot allow obsticles to prevent our chosen outcome,once we’ve decided to do this. Material concerns and other differences must be met by consensus. The third question is: When? Three to five years is insane. You could build a new church in five years,(given the remarks I’ve heard neither parish will work out. The average age may be 62, but most people I know are quite elderly. Will they even be around in five years? This misses the mark. It just prolongs in one building instead of two, the inevitable. Like a new marriage you cannot live in the past. Five years to fester over disputes will build further division, and it is not productive. It will wear down and push out good parishioners who are tired of the bickering. Weed out, regroup, rise above, and don’t look back, and let the dead bury the dead. The goal as I see it is not so much to merge but to grow Orthodoxy through evangelism and God’s will.

  3. the only way we will be able to unite is to 1)remeber where doing this for the good of the faith not the traditions and 2)put behind us what happened 50 years ago and look ahead. everything can be over come has long has we are willing to compromise and work together, maybe we can use both recipes make half the lamb one way and the other half the other way then people could just pick the one they want to eat lamb number 1 and lamb number 2. see problem solved. next problem. linda

  4. Father Peter,

    A survey is a great idea! I would suggest you put together a survey that is the *same* for all three parishes.

    Instead of “good” and “bad,” use the terms “strengths” and “weaknesses.” Perhaps a question like:

    1) List 3 strengths of xyz Orthodox Church.
    2) List 3 weaknesses you perceive of xyz Orthodox Church.
    3) List 3 strengths of abc Orthodox Church.
    4) etc.
    5) etc.
    6) etc.

    You could also ask:
    1) What is the perception of [insert each church name] in the community?

    2) Who are 3 people who would offer good leadership in transitioning three parishes to one parish? Rank them 1, 2, 3, 1 being the strongest. (With this question you could then tally the numbers in excel, assigning a certain number of points to each rank.)

    If you would like further ideas and questions, please feel free to email me at trellmore at gmail . com.

  5. First I will comment on the survey questions. As one who worked ont he survey I take offense to the set up comment. This was not the case at all and it was not designed to be a set up. We have to ask the hard questions now and get them all out in front of us. We need to know what we face before we decide to do it. We need to hear from the people and get their feelings not everyone is in the same place. This is the first of many surveys that will be given over the next few months. The next one will focus on our view for Orthodoxy.

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