St. Anthony Park United Methodist Church to merge with Roseville church

On Jan. 24, the congregation at St. Anthony Park United Methodist Church voted to merge with Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville.

St. Anthony Park United Methodist Church (UMC), located at 2200 Hillside Ave., has been in existence since 1889 and has gone through periods of growth and decline in the following years. Because current church membership has fallen below 100 members, congregational leaders have been trying to find a way to energize and grow the church, as well as meet financial needs with a smaller membership.

There is need for an elevator and improvements to the office and Sunday school rooms. The church considered selling the parking lot, but that would have meant a huge investment of money and time and would have taken away valuable parking space for the church as well as for the neighborhood. They have an endowment fund from the sale of the parsonage, but that could not be used for operating expenses. The congregation was not growing and was running out of enthusiasm (and options).

Centennial UMC has been facing its own challenges and looking for a way to grow its contemporary service. They have well-established traditional services in the morning, but struggled to find the right time and location within the church to hold the contemporary service, which has been in existence for nine years. Setting everything up and then taking it down every Sunday was a chore, and alternate spaces were cramped and dark. Centennial looked at many options and even explored renting a space outside the building.

In April 2015 both congregations consulted with UMC district superintendent Judy Zabel, and she suggested that they consider a merger. Last summer the churches convened task forces to explore the option. Instead of installing a new pastor at St. Anthony Park when the previous pastor left, the district assigned an interim pastor, Pat Hinker, who was experienced at coaching churches through the merger process.

The proposal to merge was presented to the church councils in December and a vote was held in both churches on Jan. 24. The vote was successful and the St. Anthony Park campus most likely will be called Centennial United Methodist Church: St. Anthony Park. The merged church will have two campuses with a combined membership, a single church council and a single unified budget. There will continue to be two traditional services at 9 and 10:30 a.m. at the Roseville location, with the educational program offered at 10:30 a.m. One contemporary service and an educational program will be held at the St. Anthony Park site, with details to be worked out.

Programs such as the senior Leisure Center and SAP UMC Community Nursery School will continue to be housed in the St. Anthony Park building, but other organizations with membership from one or both of the congregations may rotate between the two campuses.

The combined church will have to work on business planning (how to use the St. Anthony Park church’s endowment and a proposed capital campaign), immediate plans for sanctuary improvements for the St. Paul site to enhance contemporary worship (including new seating and screen installation), multi-site coaching for leaders and open houses to introduce members to both sites. Because some members from St. Anthony Park will change to worshiping in Roseville, there are plans to make the experience more welcoming—an enhanced website, better signage inside and outside the building, and better explanatory materials for transfers, visitors and new members.

St. Anthony Park UMC will close in June and will reopen as Centennial in September. Whitney Sheridan, who has been an associate pastor at Centennial for four years, will be the new pastor in St. Anthony Park. She says she is very excited to get to know the neighborhood and about the possibilities for outreach.

Demographics from Mission Insight (a demographics tool meant to help churches get to know the areas in which they minister) show that there are more young families moving into the area, and 60 percent of the population here does not belong to a church. She thinks having the only contemporary service in St. Anthony Park, as well as the church’s “radical hospitality and passionate desire to help the people of St. Anthony Park find a home among a family of faith that cannot wait to meet them,” will draw young families in.

Because St. Anthony Park United Methodist Church helped found Centennial United Methodist Church in 1963, there is a natural connection between the two. In some ways, this is really a reuniting of two entities that separated long ago, and church leaders hope and pray that it is a new beginning rather than an ending.

 

Michelle Christianson is a longtime contributor to the Park Bugle.

 

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