Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Life of Eagle Creek Church continues through its generous gifts.

Eagle Creek Church of the Brethren, a 164-year-old congregation in Forest, Ohio, was officially disorganized this summer. But the ministry of the congregation is continuing through a series of generous gifts from funds generated through sale of church-owned property, with approval from Northern Ohio District.

The sales totaled something close to a half million dollars, according to district executive minister John Ballinger.

In February, with membership dwindling to just a couple of families, the congregation petitioned the district to be allowed to disorganize, Ballinger said. Two couples requested a meeting with him, to talk over how to close the church.

"They had tears in their eyes," Ballinger remembered of the meeting. "It's just so painful to come to this point" in the life of a congregation, he said. During the meeting, the district executive suggested an analogy that proved helpful, comparing the closing of the church to the way hospice care can help a person dealing with end-of-life issues. "To have purpose as the end of life nears provides a way for a person--or a church--to die with dignity," he commented.

After the remaining Eagle Creek members asked about the possibility of liquidating the church property "with a notion about what they could do with the proceeds," Ballinger consulted with other district executives and found that churches have done this before approval from their districts.

The congregation already was connected with the Church of the Brethren's Global Food Crisis Fund and the Foods Resource Bank through two big tracts of farmland it owned, in addition to other church property. "They were really tickled to make a difference using that farmland," Ballinger said.

In July, the Northern Ohio District Conference approved the closing of Eagle Creek Church with the distribution of proceeds. A number of denominational funds received gifts, including $20,000 to the Global Food Crisis Fund, $20,000 to disaster relief, and $9,500 to the Church of the Brethren's Core Ministries Fund. Another $20,000 went to the Foods Resource Bank, and $10,000 to Heifer International.

In addition, generous gifts were given to the district and to some of its ministries including the Good Shepherd Home, Inspiration Hills Camp and Retreat Center, and youth workcamp scholarships. Other gifts were given to a hospice and other local outreach organizations.

Items from the sanctuary of Eagle Creek Church were placed on the worship center during the district conference: a Bible, candlesticks, and vases from the church's altar table, and the congregation's offering plates. A litany read by the delegate body gave a special blessing to the congregation as it made its final decision.

"It was a celebration of life," said Ballinger of the event at the district conference. The Eagle Creek gifts "will be a legacy of continued life and ministry."

Source: 9/9/2009 Newsline

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