Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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12 APRIL/MAY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay COMMUNITIES MOVED BY THE SPIRIT Church not deterred by failed makeover Opportunity exists in booming community BY DONNA FRISCHKNECHT JACKSON phenomenal," said Jim Fouss. Fouss moved to Middletown 4½ years ago to be closer to children and grand- children and has been a supporter of Church on Main through "thick and thin," Moseley said. A decade ago, Middletown, like many American towns, was strug- gling. That all changed when online retail behemoth Amazon began making more of an investment in Delaware, adding jobs to its Middletown distribution center. The additional jobs have helped make New Castle County a hotbed for growth. And the growth is reflected not only in new housing develop- ments. Fouss has seen large evan- gelical churches popping up as well. "It will be a challenge," Fouss said of the work to be done establishing Church on Main's ministry. "But we have to try." The church's evolution began in 2015, when presbytery officials realized that something had to be done to reverse the dwindling membership at Forest Presbyterian. The decision was made to try a new approach in church redevelopment. The long-standing but aging congre- gation was closed and the historic building shut down for eight months as it underwent much-needed upgrades and renovations. During that time, a pastor was called. The church reopened with a fresh coat of paint and a new name P essimists would argue that if at first you don't succeed, just give up. Luckily, Church on Main has many optimists in New Castle Presbytery who are rallying around its mission and ministry. After its first makeover in 2016 didn't pan out — young pastor, new church name, renewed focus on com- munity — Church on Main is trying again in hopes of connecting with a community that is smack in the middle of an economic revival. Its new focus is simple: Don't establish a church based on traditional models — session, pastor, etc. Establish a church based on an ancient model — offering a haven for folks to come together and not only hear faith stories, but also engage in conversa- tion with these stories and with one another. "We see ourselves as the alterna- tive church — a place of hospitality, all-inclusive of the LGBTQ commu- nity, and a venue of public discourse and learning in ways that honor dif- ference," said the Rev. Jim Moseley, executive presbyter of New Castle Presbytery in Newark, Delaware. Church on Main is indeed in an opportune position. Founded in 1750, the church, formerly known as Forest Presbyterian, stands in the heart of Middletown, Delaware — one of the fastest-growing towns in the state. "The growth we are seeing is taken from the street it is located on — Church on Main. It quickly became clear that the church would need more to reinvent itself. According to Moseley, valuable lessons were learned that year as "we all struggled with the many assumptions we had made about a church 'start-over' in a smaller COURTESY OF CHURCH ON MAIN A chalkboard was placed outside Church on Main during a recent community festival, inviting people to share their thoughts as to what church is. Church on Main continues to evolve, finding its niche in a fast-growing community.

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