Congregation votes to continue on merger path

At the special congregational meeting May 18, Falcon Heights Church members unanimously approved a resolution to continue on the path of merger with New Life Presbyterian Church.

The action launches a 253-day planning period for the two churches that would culminate in a jointly created merger plan, to be offered for adoption at the Jan. 26, 2025 Annual Congregational Meeting.

Rev. Rick King wrote about the process that led to the vote in his column for the May 23 TAB newsletter:

What did we just do? Discernment, Ignatian spirituality, and the May 18 vote

Together, we accomplished a pretty amazing feat on May 18. We needed 31 people for a quorum, which is 25 percent of 127 members; 54 showed up—and the vote on the resolution to proceed along a path toward merger with New Life Presbyterian Church of Roseville was unanimous.

After the April 20 congregational working session, our moderator, Bryan Seyfarth, and I looked at each other and asked, “Can you believe it? Everybody is together on this!”

But we can believe it, because we made room for group discernment with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The process engaged a large number of people in the congregation, and it began back in November, with the Executive Board’s Future Search process.

We started with a look back at the recent past three and a half years of experiences we’ve had and what we learned; moved to a present snapshot of our church’s life, its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats—both within the church and in the surrounding community; and then, out of these insights, I worked up five possible future scenarios, of which the board chose four to present at the annual meeting in January.

Then we spent the next 90 days exhaustively researching those paths for the pros and cons of each.

We wanted to make sure we were rooting ourselves in as much reality as we could grasp. We presented these findings at the April 20 working session, and allowed the small group process to work through them—hopes and excitement, fears and anxieties about each one. This was followed by each group making a recommendation of which path they favored. The merger path was the one with the most positive energy around it, and that’s what we presented May 18.

We used elements of an ancient model for group discernment, the Ignatian one, a balanced approach to seeking the will of God that involved both head and heart. That means thorough research of all the pros and cons we could think of for each of the four possible paths toward a sustainable future for our church, and making space for vigorous group discussion, prayer, sharing of ideas, hopes and anxieties, and an awareness of which paths called out to us as a possible future, rooted in mission.

Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, was deeply aware of the way ego masquerading as good intentions can cause us to make choices that on the surface seem to make sense, and which we tell ourselves are God’s will, but which are more human-powered than Spirit-breathed.

So he evolved a method which is rooted in community, whether it’s one person talking with another or a congregation listening to its members and to the deeper insights which God surfaces when we open ourselves to all the information we can gather AND ask questions like the following:

  • When we imagine ourselves on a particular path, does it give us joy, fill us with dread, reveal a life-giving awareness of grace, of love in action?
  • If we were advising another church on which path to choose, what would we suggest to them?
  • Does it trust that God’s world is one of abundance, or of scarcity?
  • When we look at all the good options available to us, which ones call out to us, and why?

We were aware that once we started down the path, if at any point the consensus broke down or if New Life Presbyterian or we became convinced it was not God’s will, we could stop and go back to any point in the process and see what we’d missed or what needed attending to.

God is patient, loving, and wise, and wants to work with us in discerning our path forward. Thanks be to God!