Christ Episcopal Church of Lonsdale, Michigan, going to merge with another parish?

Episcopalians who count 175 years of worship on Lonsdale Avenue have a decision to make this month that’s both tearing at their hearts and dividing them into two camps.

On Sunday, Jan. 30, the 300-plus members of Christ Church of Lonsdale will vote on whether to abandon their striking stone structures at the corners of John Street and merge with Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland Hill.

On the same day, Emmanuel’s congregation will be considering the flip side – whether to open their doors to these 200 new families in a move that will immediately crowd the facility where 150 generally worship on Sundays, force extra Sunday services and require an expensive expansion of their Nate Whipple Highway campus.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

12 comments on “Christ Episcopal Church of Lonsdale, Michigan, going to merge with another parish?

  1. Jeremy Bonner says:

    [i]Also, more families would return – and with them pledge dollars – if the church gave up its recent demand that parents and children together attend an hour of Sunday School followed by an hour or more of worship every Sunday.[/i]

    Now that’s interesting. Does that mean that Sunday School is only available to children whose parents are willing to participate? And why would any parent object to that?

    It suggests that the rector takes family formation seriously (and that some in his congregation do not).

  2. Statmann says:

    These churches are in Rhode Island, not Michigan. Statmann

  3. KevinBabb says:

    As the names of the towns near the masthead would indicate.

  4. Matt Kennedy says:

    How awful. I really really sympathize with those poor, obviously oppressed, parishioners who were forced to leave their home church by the outrageous demand that they spend an entire TWO HOURS in church on Sunday morning…I mean what kind of cruel, taciturn, joy-killing pastor is this Scott Gunn? : )

  5. Statmann says:

    This merger is fairly complex. Christ church had (2009) ASA of 150 (down about 25 percent) with Plate & Pledge of $240K. Old building with plenty of seats. Emmanuel had (2009) ASA of 150 (up about 40 percent) with Plate & Pledge of $170K. Money does appear to be a key factor, especially with Christ church. But then, one reads about $Miillions that would be needed for expansion of Emmanuel and even more $Millions to build a new facility. I am glad I am not on either Vestry Yet, I suspect that Bishop Wolf is supportive of mergers. Her diocese had a tough time during 2002 through 2009 with Members down 22.8 percent, ASA down 25.7 percent, and Plate & Pledge (adjusted for inflation) down 14.4 percent. But only 19 of the 54 churches had ASA of 66 or less in 2009. And 34 of the 54 had Plate & Pledge of less than $150K which means that each “rich” church has less than two “poor” church to help support. But the future looks less bright when it is noted thaat Infant Baptisms declined from 618 in 2002 to 377 in 2009 which is a 39 percent decline. Statmann

  6. robroy says:

    Scott Gunn, whose attendance is down by 25%, declared himself to be an “honest” revisionist, [url=]by signing the letter supporting the Dan Martins for the bishopric of Springfield[/url]. Searched T19 archives and Kendall+ linked a self described “rant” by him about Mary Glasspool, [url= ]here[/url]. From his blog, we have this prediction for 2011:
    [blockquote] Right wing “Anglican” extremists will continue to make dire threats and scary predictions about the Anglican Communion and its future. And yet Anglican life will go on. In local congregations all over the world, the Gospel will be proclaimed. The only difference will be to which meetings certain prelates are flying — actual Anglican gatherings or schismatic meetings of the like-minded.[/blockquote]
    Christ church looks like a beautiful building. What a shame/crime to tear it down. But that’s how I feel about the denomination.

  7. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Some things just don’t tie up in this story, particularly on the finances. Most parents want a break from their children where they can worship briefly in the respite from the constant attention of children, while the children attend Sunday School. A new clergy person has been taken on, notwithstanding supposed shortages of money. Big sums of money are apparently available for restoring windows, which is hardly the priority if the roof needs fixing. Then there is the decline in numbers attributed to the Rev. Gunn’s incumbency. Clearly there is money around, but perhaps the Rev Gunn is the problem, nice as he may be.

    I wonder if the alternative 1961 building is really a good long term bet, a building from an era notorious for problems in the long term, particularly if made from reinforced concrete. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and nasty to look at.

    Oh well, I expect there is some sense in it all, somewhere or other.

    Christ Church looks lovely.

  8. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Oh dear me yes, lots of concrete.

  9. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    The equation goes like this in the long term: sulphates and chlorides, if not in the concrete, leach into it, corrode reinforcing bars; corrosion expands bars, concrete cracks. Knock it down and start again. As I said, a notorious era, with built in obsolescence, just like me, unless you have been very lucky in the building.

  10. Scott Gunn says:

    Hi everyone,

    Yes, the situation here at Christ Church is both sad and joyful at once. It’s sad to think about leaving behind lovely buildings, and I do hope that we can find another party to preserve our church building. But it’s also an encouraging sign in the life of our church that so many people are willing to put ministry before maintenance.

    Regarding ASA, you should know a few things. Prior to my arrival, the ASA report included a “children’s chapel” service for the kids who were in Sunday school during church. This was certainly a legitimate way to do things, since there was a (very brief) worship service at the beginning of class time. However, when I arrived, we started counting only Sunday formal worship service attendance in our ASA, not counting services with kids & teachers only. We made the schedule switch so that we could offer adult formation AND child formation alongside worship. Yes, we ask people to be around for 2.5 hours on Sundays.

    The Sunday morning attendance was 140ish (from memory) in 2007. It will be 165, probably more, for 2010. In 2008 or so, we tried a Sunday evening service, to see if we could attract people who might not be able to come to church on Sunday morning. That service had attendance of 20-30 people, many of whom were coming back for another dose from the morning. So, despite the fact that it made our ASA look good, we ended that service, because it wasn’t doing what we had hoped: attracting seekers.

    My point is that, while you can evaluate my ministry here many ways, the ASA is a tricky metric. I have chosen to use the lowest possible number, rather than some other choices that might have pushed it up. We have experienced net growth here, and our average pledge is up over 40% in three years, and more again for 2011.

    As an aside, we disaggregated the pledge data for 2007-2010. In families where no adults took part in adult formation, their pledge went up 3%. In families where adults took part in formation, their pledge went up 60%. Formation pays off spiritually, which shows itself in financial generosity.

    I would be grateful — and so would the people of Christ Church and Emmanuel Church — for your steadfast prayers. Whatever we decide, the road ahead is going to be a tough one.


  11. Scott Gunn says:

    Me again.

    You might also want to read this longer article from another local paper. The article linked above is not too bad, but it does have some (mostly minor) factual errors.


  12. Sarah says:

    I certainly hope that the parish votes not to merge. I can see no reason too. They can cut their expenses by cutting the associate. Looks as if they can raise the money to do the parish repairs. It honestly looks like a bizarre and unworkable plan, for no particular reason.

    For one thing — as we know from watching “parish mergers” over the years, the number of people from the old merged parish never equals a net increase for the new merged parish. So there’s no way that the old will simply transfer to the new. Plus there’s obviously a significant difference between the two congregations and I don’t see those differences being merged. So the net result is *one parish* with new building [maybe since remember all the old members of the closed parish aren’t going to be transferring to the new], and old building *and* parish destroyed.

    Why on earth this parish should give up their heritage for the lack of repairs, when there’s the money to do it, is beyond me. This smacks of a diocesan scheme to somehow salvage the *other* parish whose pledging numbers are not at all high.