As Glenwood Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church dwindled to about 20 members, they faced a heart-wrenching choice.
They could sell the 350-seat sanctuary and fellowship hall on Freedom Drive and buy a smaller building. Or, they could sell and close the church.
Chuck Paxton, clerk of session at Glenwood, tears up when he talks about the unanimous congregational vote to put the property on the market and disband the 95-year-old church.
“It was extremely difficult,” he said. “But we knew this was something we had to do.”
As the group discussed the future of Glenwood ARP, one word kept coming up: Legacy.
In response, Glenwood ARP has made arrangements that will impact the ministry of the church for decades.
On May 12, the church gave Reformed Theological Seminary, which has a campus on Sharon View Road, $628,000 that will be used for full-tuition scholarships for students affiliated with ARP churches.
The money came from the sale of the church, which closed earlier this month.
“It’s a meaningful gift for us, and we are thrilled about it,” said the Rev. Mike Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary. “We think it’s going to bless our seminary for many years.”
The seminary has a strong connection with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian denomination, which was founded in the United States in the late 1700s and now exists primarily in the Carolinas. Four of the 10 residential faculty at RTS are ordained ARP pastors.
The fund will award two scholarships a year to students who are pursing a Master of Divinity, a three-year degree that qualifies them to become pastors. Paxton said projections show the fund should be able to provide scholarships for at least 30 years.
The first scholarship will be awarded this fall, Kruger said, and RTS is taking applications. Scholarships can be particularly helpful for seminary students, who often are in their late 20s, married and have at least one child.
“It’s hard to pay for tuition and provide for a family,” Kruger said.
Seminary graduates who become pastors also likely will not earn salaries that make paying off tuition debt easy, he said.
Glenwood ARP members have discussed meeting once a month for a social event, but otherwise they are visiting other churches.
Church of Pentecost, a growing church with a congregation that is almost 90-percent Ghanaian immigrants, will move into the building in early August after completing some renovations.
“We wanted to continue to thrive as a church, and we wanted to continue to thrive in the neighborhood,” Paxton said. “They were better suited to make the situation thrive than we could.”
The Charlotte congregation of Church of the Pentecost began in 2000 as a prayer group in a Ghanaian immigrant’s living room, and now the congregation has several hundred members.
The Rev. Foday Dumbuya, pastor of Church of Pentecost, said his church is outgrowing its building on Nations Ford Road. The church now hosts two Sunday morning services – one in English, and one in English with a translation into a Ghanaian language.
The English-only congregation will stay at the Nations Ford building, and the other congregation will move into the former Glenwood ARP building.
The church needs more space for their children’s programs, and they want to fix up the basketball courts and playground so children in the neighborhood can play there.
“Church members are extremely excited about it,” Dumbuya said. “Our goal is to reach out to those who are in the vicinity.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Email her with story ideas at email@example.com.
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