Earlier this year, the congregation of Trinity, Newark, began the painful process of demolishing their 125-year-old sanctuary, auditorium and chapel due to structural damage. In an ongoing Connections’ series, “The Journey Toward Our Future,” the people of Trinity will share with us the story of how they came to this impossible decision and the journey to their new future as the Episcopal Church in Newark, Ohio.
Part 4: How Recasting helped us plot our course
After participating in the Episcopal Church Building Fund’s Recasting of Assets Program (provided by our diocesan Commission on Congregational Life) and assessing our assets, the team from Trinity, Newark evaluated the best path forward for our congregation. The choices were
- Live and Thrive
- Sustain with Minimal Changes
It was evident that our small but mighty church did not have to “die” even though our sanctuary had outlived its structural health. We chose to work toward sustainability with the ultimate goal of thriving. Our true assets are by far our members – energetic, devoted, and passionate; our location – in the heart of a revitalized downtown; our property – half of a city block with a reasonably useful education building; and financial reserves. We set out to determine what vital role our church could play in our community, modeling Bishop Breidenthal’s observation that the peace of Christ is about engaging with our neighbors.
With a COCL grant and an invitation from St. Matthew’s, Westerville to learn from their building woes and transformation, the Rev. Joseph Kovitch was hired as our Recasting Priest, dedicating 15 hours each week to help the parish build relationships to better determine where and whom Trinity should serve. His outreach includes the method that was useful for St. Matthew’s – networking with passersby at the local coffee shop, attending city council meetings, meeting with leaders from various social services and other congregations to simultaneously support and empower the core of the congregation as well as to share our story with the greater community.
We view Recasting as an evolutionary process, one that continues without end, yet keeps five foundational elements in focus: our congregation, our community, a priestly presence, our facility, and interaction and support from the diocese. Our shared vision of reimagining the church with St. Matthew’s has brought both vestries together for consultation, exploration, and collaboration to ensure our separate congregational sustainability. “The key to our success will be that we allow it to evolve, be evolutionary, so that we continue to adapt,” said Kovitch.
Trinity has continued to show God’s love to the world by being a lively center for ministry to the Downtown Newark community: sponsoring the 4th Sunday Community Dinner, partnering with the Market Street Food Pantry, reading with children at our neighborhood elementary school, and by providing supplies to the YES afterschool clubhouse. Being faithful servants, in 2018, Trinity also invested over $60,000 to refurbish our basement to comfortably house the county’s Alcoholics Anonymous program. With Father Joe’s outreach, Trinity has become the host of monthly community meetings to address public transportation needs of the county, as well as offering food, children’s entertainment, and compline services at the downtown’s “Final Fridays” events, just to name a few.
Recasting is always happening. It is a constant and continual process of checks and balances, moving forward into new and changing relationships with God and our community. The biggest change so far is that the narrative of our dilemma has changed. For so long, outsiders thought of us as the church with a roof problem, and worse, the church that destroyed a ‘lovely historical building,” regardless of the years of diligent research, outreach, and fundraising. Now, we are charting our own course in service to others. We are the authors of our story and as such, for Trinity, ‘building’ is no longer a noun, but rather a verb. Our focus is now on building relationships, building ministries, and building membership.
Contributed by Stacy Geller