Church of the Redeemer Recommends Members Transplant to Spring Glen UCC
By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
Members of the Church of the Redeemer in New Haven on Sunday voted to recommend that members transplant to the Spring Glen Church UCC in Hamden, and also commended to them the town's First Presbyterian Church as an alternative.
The vote followed a long discernment process in how to respond to an active but declining membership. Redeemer’s last regular worship service will be on Sunday, Sept. 2, with a celebratory memorial service being planned for the spring.
“This congregation discerned that the most faithful way to live out its call to be in spiritual community and to be about the work of gospel ministry is to transplant the people and their spiritual gifts to two thriving congregations that are aligned with Redeemer’s values and priorities and, from its material assets, to create an enduring legacy that will bless the world," said the Rev. Susan J. Murtha, Interim Senior Minister. "I am awed by the faithfulness these decisions encompass.”
The 171-member congregation has spent many years actively discerning their future. In 2015, the congregation entered into discussions with four other United Church of Christ congregations about the possibilities of merging. That led to a two-year discussion with United Church on the Green in New Haven about joining and forming a new congregation, but that proposal was voted down in June of 2017. In June, 2018, the congregation voted to recommend that members transplant to another congregation. This summer, the congregation engaged in numerous activities - including worship and conversation - with both Spring Glen and First Presbyterian. Members also took part in two surveys.
Those surveys showed that most members of the church wanted to move to a United Church of Christ congregation, and they felt Spring Glen - a vibrant and growing church that is leading the effort to build a strong, multi-church youth group - was a good fit. Others felt that First Presbyterian, which recently became a sanctuary church ready to provide a safe haven for immigrants threatened with imminent deportation, was also a good fit in that it embraces the values of the Redeemer congregation.
"We believe Redeemer members can go forward with renewed energy to build a stronger body of Christ in both of these loving faith communities," the church's Leadership Council stated in a letter on the vote.
The Rev. Jack Perkins Davidson, Senior Pastor of Spring Glen UCC, and the Rev. Jocelyn (J.C.) Cadwallade, Pastor and Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church, together released a YouTube video welcoming Redeemer members to their congregations.
“In voting to transplant, the members of Church of the Redeemer, have done something big, bold, and beautiful. They have paved a path for the future of Mainline Christianity, showing the rest of us how our commitment to Christ's liberating gospel can transcend our institutional identities," Davidson said.
"But it's important to note that bold is bold because it involves risk, sacrifice, or loss. A move like this, however exciting, can also create a real sense of grief. However, this vote reminds us that we are all in this together, sharing in our sorrows and in our celebrations. I thank the members of Redeemer for their courage and their grace and I look forward to discovering what new miracles God has in store for us here at Spring Glen Church, and at First Presbyterian Church of New Haven, and wherever else the Spirit leads us,” he said.
The congregation has committed to keeping its building open through at least June of 2019 for the more than 400 people who use it each week for self-help, musical and other groups. The congregation announced that it is now embarking on a "legacy-making process" to determine how best to use the church's material assets in a way that will honor the church's 180-year history and its values, ministries, and missions.
Conference Minister the Rev. Kent J. Siladi hailed Redeemer's bold move.
"This for me is an example of early adoption by an amazing congregation that has discerned what they believe is the right and faithful action to take," he said. "It has been challenging and it is accompanied by pain, grief and loss. However these folks have taken the leap and I believe are showing one path to the future church."