By Randy Heacock, Leadership Minister
On Sunday, June 26, 2022, Rocky Ridge (Quakertown, PA) Mennonite Church gathered for its final worship service. The service was one of encouragement and commissioning, to trust that God will bring to completion the good work that has now begun. Though the congregation is ending, the people were encouraged to continue their journey of following Jesus.
The June 26 service was the final of three special services planned for the last days of the congregation. The first service was one of lament led by Noel Santiago, a Mosaic staff member. The second was a celebration of God’s faithfulness through the years.
While I do not wish to minimize the loss in Rocky Ridge’s decision to close, deep faith and tremendous courage guided the decision. When Franco Salvatori, the most recent Pastor, ended his time in August 2020, the elders faced some hard decisions. Because of a number of factors, including the pandemic, having no pastor, and members being called elsewhere, J.R. Briggs of Kairos Partnerships was hired to facilitate conversations and help the elders lead the congregation. The Rocky Ridge congregation considered many possibilities, but the two that gained most interest were either to graft into another congregation or to work collaboratively with other congregations in order to start something new.
The elders put forth much creative energy in engaging three local Mosaic pastors. Questions of what collaboration could look like and what gifts each congregation could bring were thoughtfully considered. Many exciting possibilities began to emerge as Rocky Ridge elders met with these pastors. After several months of conversation, however, the timing did not seem right for either Rocky Ridge and/or the other pastors. Neither was Rocky Ridge ready to be grafted into another church.
Finally, near the end of consulting time, Briggs shared his observations and considerations for the congregation to discern. Among other things, Briggs asked if it was time for the congregation to go on “hospice.” Rather than prolong its struggling life, what if the congregation decided to end its current way of being church, which would then free up whatever resources it has for Kingdom work.
Because there was little response to this possibility during the meeting, the elders courageously decided to hold private interviews with each member. As Leadership Minister, I was given the privilege to do some of these interviews. Some general themes that came from these interviews were:
- The majority of Rocky Ridge congregants desire a traditional church setting.
- The loss of people over the years has taken a huge toll.
- Although talking about hospice is painful, being on it is compassionate.
- People are tired and want clarity.
As the elders discussed the results of this process and prayed, they decided to recommend to the congregation that the Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church close its doors. A congregational vote in May affirmed this decision. With the recommendation came clarity to hold the three services mentioned above. Deciding what to do with the property will be discerned over the next several months. The desire will be to see how God leads us to use the property for the Kingdom.
Some members have already connected with area churches. Others are waiting to see what new thing God may call them to, and still others are taking a step back to listen for next steps. As Lead Minister, it has been a privilege to walk with this congregation. Though difficult, it was a joy to witness these steps of faithfulness and courage.
Closing Prayer for Rocky Ridge’s Final Service
June 26, 2022
by Randy Heacock, Lead Minister
(based on John 11 & Philippians 1)
Leader: I thank God every time I think of you for your faithful witness and desire to follow Jesus.
People: We give thanks for the many who have called Rocky Ridge home and for the ways we have seen God work through the years.
Leader: Like Mary and Martha, you have experienced grief in losing the church you love.
Elders: We have heard the questions … if only and why can’t?
As Jesus wept with Mary and Martha, so we feel that grief and the pain caused by great loss.
Leader: May you remember Jesus’ invitation to believe that you will see the glory of the God!
People: We believe, Lord. Help our unbelief.
Leader: I am fully confident in the God who called you to complete the good work He has begun. God will produce in you the harvest of righteousness.
People: Let us pray for one another that our love may overflow with knowledge and insight so that we gain clarity as to what to do next. May each one of us have the courage to boldly live into the new future God has for us.
Leader: Be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Randy Heacock serves as a Leadership Minister for Mosaic Conference while continuing in his role as pastor of Doylestown Mennonite Church.