“ … We give thanks for the ministry that has happened in this congregation, and for the people who have been fed and nurtured in the Christian faith here. Even as we mark the end of an era in one place, we acknowledge how we are all participants in God’s mission that continues beyond this day and these walls.” (Occasional Services For The Assembly, Augsburg Fortress, 2009)
So says the Prayer of the Day that begins the liturgy which is used when a congregation closes its doors. These words are heard with a mixture of emotions in varying degrees: grief and nostalgia for what has gone on before, as well as anxiety and hopefulness about the future.
The reality is we live in a time of economic and demographic changes that has some of our congregations at a crossroad. Should a congregation continue to exist when its only concern is keeping the door open as opposed to being the vibrant faith community that congregational members need, one that cares for them, challenges them, disciples them – all for the purpose of sending them out to the community in mission?
Is it best to keep a congregation going, at any cost? No, this is neither a healthy or correct Christian theological approach. Death is never the last word. Sometimes the best decision that can be made is for a church to close, to close with dignity. Always being mindful of the words of Jesus, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
The policy that is outlined in this document is guided by the belief that God’s ever- present blessing gives us the confidence to close the doors of a church knowing that faith, life, and salvation are not bound to one place, however sacred in our memory, but are God’s to give everywhere and in every time.