Ten people stood in Good Shepherd United Methodist Church’s sanctuary on Moss Road in south Charlotte on a recent Sunday and introduced themselves.They had come from Zoar Road United Methodist Church, just four miles away.Zoar Road UMC, which was founded in 1861 and originally met in a log cabin, had agreed to what one former Zoar Road member describes as an “adoption” by the larger church.The July 1 merger of the two congregations will allow Good Shepherd UMC to focus on each church’s strengths. Almost all Zoar Road members are joining Good Shepherd, and Good Shepherd will build on Zoar Road’s addiction-recovery ministry at the Zoar Road campus.Sandra Masterman, who joined Zoar Road UMC 54 years ago at age 6 and most recently served as secretary for that church’s board of trustees, said the average age of the congregation was about 70. She said Zoar Road had 42 members and Sunday attendance of 26 to 29.The Metro District of the United Methodist Church, which watches over its churches, approached Good Shepherd about taking over Zoar, which also meant taking over the church’s property, finances and membership.“It’s really a beautiful, beautiful journey,” Masterman said of joining Good Shepherd, which has 25 staff members and an average Sunday attendance of about 1,800.Zoar Road’s Sunday attendance was low, but hundreds visited the church campus every week for one of 42 12-step meetings.Build a communityLeaders at Good Shepherd did some research and decided Zoar Road was too close to Good Shepherd’s Moss Road campus for remote worship service.“We thought, ‘Let’s take the facility and use it as an outreach center first,’ ” said Talbot Davis, Good Shepherd’s senior pastor. “We’d build community, and whatever worship service that would happen there would emerge.” Once a vibrant congregation, Zoar Road UMC had been unable to provide programs for youths as the Steele Creek area filled with young families, Masterman said. The church most recently was led by a pastor who worked there 10 hours a week – all the church could afford.The pastor was scheduled to move to another church July 1, the date Good Shepherd took over. Prior to July 1, Good Shepherd leaders visited Zoar Road members at their homes, where they talked and prayed together.For many at Good Shepherd, joining a larger church has been somewhat of a homecoming. When Good Shepherd started in 1991, about half of Zoar Road’s members at the time started going to the new church.“For us, it just seems like a normal evolution,” Masterman said. “We’re back with those people. We were still friends with them, so it’s not like there was a fear of not knowing people.”Masterman and her mother now sit together in Sunday worship with Masterman’s godmother, who left Zoar Road when Good Shepherd started.“I think it’s all been part of God’s plan,” Masterman said.Outreach centerThere are three buildings on Zoar Road’s 7-acre campus in the southeastern corner of Steele Creek. The church’s chapel, built in 1955, now houses a small Good Shepherd group that meets Sunday mornings. The rows of chairs there have been rearranged into circles to accommodate smaller groups.A large “Come to Life” banner hangs on the Jimmy Howard Life Center, built in 2007 when Zoar Road UMC had a brief season of prosperity. The Zoar Road Club, a nonprofit organization, continues to oversee 12-step meetings in the campus’s third building.For Good Shepherd, the Zoar Road campus will serve as an outreach center for the 12-step meetings and new ministries.Davis envisions the campus hosting Room in the Inn, a temporary housing program for those who are homeless, and block parties for children in surrounding neighborhoods.Masterman said the merger of the churches was met with relief and gratitude as members realized their campus would continue as a ministry site. Zoar Road members already are enjoying the Sunday worship at Good Shepherd, often commenting to each other how each Sunday’s message was memorable.“It was not sad,” Masterman said of the merger. “We just felt excitement for what God has in store for the Zoar Road campus of Good Shepherd. I know God has great plans for it to serve the current generation and many future generations.“I think it’s going to be just marvelous.”
Friday, Jul. 19, 2013
‘Adoption’ brings 2 churches together
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at email@example.com.
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