By Chad Ingram
Published Aug. 24 2017
The Minden United Church and Carnarvon’s Zion United Church will join forces in 2018 forming a new amalgamated church.
“Over the last couple of years the three churches they’ve been talking about amalgamation” said Rev. Max Ward who oversees the charge including the Minden and Carnarvon United churches as well as Maple Lake United Church.
A vote on the matter was held in October of 2016.
“We had a vote and the three churches voted individually whether or not they wanted to participate” Ward explained.
While the congregations in Minden and Carnarvon voted in favour of amalgamation congregants at Maple Lake United voted for it to remain a freestanding church.
Of the three churches Zion has the largest congregation up to 45 people on an average Sunday. This number goes up in the summertime and can shrink during the winter months.
Minden United Church has an average congregation of 40 or so people and Maple Lake United eight to 12. Each church sees numbers go up in the summertime.
“Minden and Zion have continued working toward amalgamation” Ward said explaining that more joint services between the two churches have been held in recent months.
Beginning in 2018 the plan is for a month’s worth of services to take place at Zion United Church. Services will take place at 9:30 a.m. rather than 9 a.m. on Sundays.
Then a month’s worth of services will take place in Minden in February. The plan is for this alternation to continue for at least six months as the new amalgamated congregation decides which of the buildings will become home to the amalgamated church.
“Really they’re both in adequate condition” Ward said. However he added that both did require some work – elevators for instance which aren’t cheap.
At this point he said the churches are doing OK financially.
“Often there are deficits and they’re made up at the end of the year” Ward said. “All three churches don’t have any debt.”
However there is long-term financial concern.
“Our congregants are mainly elderly people” Ward said.
Services at Maple Lake United Church which recently sent a letter to its members regarding financial concerns will begin at 11 a.m. starting in the new year.
The name for new amalgamated church is to be Highland Hills United Church.
Lois Deacon is the chairwoman of the integration committee and told the paper that similar processes have been and are happening with churches throughout the continent.
“This kind of thing is happening all over North America particularly in smaller communities where churches have seen a change in attendance” Deacon said.
Not only are congregants aging but Deacon said they are asked to volunteer their time and energy in various places which also adds strain.
“It’s a matter of survival” she said of the coming amalgamation. “People want to be able to look forward with hope and joy and excitement about what a future congregation could be.”
In a time where many of the traditional roles of churches have been taken on by social services Deacon said the amalgamation is also a time for the congregation to focus on what the church’s place within the larger community should be.
“The whole intent is what else can the church be doing for the community?” she said. “What’s the role of the church?”