Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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LEADERS N early three years ago, Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church was near the bottom of what the pastor, the Rev. Floretta Watkins, calls "a downward spiral." Membership in the Charlotte, North Carolina, congregation had dropped from close to 300 in 2002 to about 70. With debts to pay off and buildings to maintain, the church was struggling financially. But faith and determination, along with help from the Presbyterian Foundation, have transformed Seigle Avenue's decline into what Watkins describes as "a story of resurrec- tion." The church has sold property in a gentrifying area of Charlotte and moved its worship services to a former chapel on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, one of several historically black colleges affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). A new name, "The Avenue," signi- fies the renewed spirit of the congre- gation. Now some 60 people regu- larly attend worship. Attendance before the move had averaged 25–30, Watkins says. And the congregation is not just waiting for new people to come to them. They are using social media to get the word out and experimenting with monthly gatherings for conver- sation in coffee shops and breweries. In September, they began a campus ministry at the university and have made significant progress as an identifiable ministry among students. The Rev. Dr. Madeline McClenney is one of the campus min- isters. Several times each week she interacts with students at mealtimes, chatting with them in the library and as she distributes invitations to the Sunday service in Biddle Hall. During exam week, The Avenue staff distributed hot chocolate and goodie bags to more than 160 students. To date, The Avenue is the only offi- cially approved ministry on campus, and a weekly campus Bible study was recently launched. "We're an open and affirming community," McClenney said. "We're convinced that our church would be a good fit for a lot of people." Olanda Carr, a ministry rela- tions officer for the Presbyterian Foundation, has walked with the Seigle Avenue congregation through its time of transition. After learning in early 2015 about the church's plans to sell property, he offered the foundation's assistance. The offer led to a conference call in which Watkins and her session met with Carr and Paul Grier from the foundation as well as the Rev. Betty Meadows, transitional general presbyter of Charlotte Presbytery, 16 APRIL/MAY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay Charlotte church revives lagging ministry Foundation helps them go from death to resurrection BY EVA STIMSON COURTESY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN FOUNDATION The Rev. Floretta Watkins has seen a church go from a "downward spiral" to one that has hope and a renewed spirit.

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