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Personal from Ministerial and Member Services: June 18, 2020

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Personal from Ministerial and Member Services

June 18, 2020

Meeting Halls Conducive to Worshiping God

God’s people have worshiped Him in a tabernacle in the wilderness, in King Solomon’s glorious temple, in Zerubbabel’s not nearly as glorious temple, in King Herod’s refurbished temple, in synagogues, in Pella, in scattered homes, in a fabulous auditorium in Pasadena, California, and in various and sundry meeting halls around the world.

God has allowed various “houses of worship” throughout the ages.

Certainly, the worship of God is vastly more important than the building in which we assemble. Recently, we have been worshiping God online, as a temporary measure. Many of us are going back to worship at halls in our local areas in the United States and around the world. Moreover, many more congregations will be reopening services soon.

Does it matter in what type of building we meet to worship God? Obviously, it does matter!

We should strive to meet in the best hall God provides for us! We should seek out halls that are inspiring and conducive to worshiping God. Of course, we have some limitations—as we must be responsible stewards, managing the blessings God bestows upon us in a way in which He would be most pleased.

I believe I speak for those in leadership positions on the Council and in the Administration of the United Church of God—we desire that all local congregations meet in a hall that is uplifting and conducive to worshiping our Great God and His Son, Jesus Christ!

We are in favor of owning our own buildings where it makes good fiscal sense, and as long as God provides the finances to do so. Of course, we have many other financial considerations in our two-fold mission of “preaching the gospel” and “preparing a people” for Christ’s return.

We have been able to build and to purchase some meeting halls scattered throughout the world. We will continue to do so as God gives opportunity and opens doors for us.

In the recent 2020 congregational survey, we asked your input about meeting halls and you gave us much to consider. We were certainly well aware of the desire and the need to have suitable meeting halls, whether owned or rented. The survey confirmed that many of you believe as we do along these lines.

Personally, I believe that God will provide better and more suitable halls to meet in as we apply ourselves and show ourselves diligent in seeking out such locations. In my own experience as a pastor, I have seen this to be true firsthand on a number of occasions. Once a diligent search was made for a better hall, it wasn’t long, in most cases, that God provided a nicer hall that suited our needs more fully. Of course, exercising patience is also important because it often takes a good deal of our time and effort before God provides.

Congregations should seek out a more suitable meeting place if one is needed and desired. Our pastors are already spread very thin in many cases (another truth to which the recent survey attested), so in some cases improvements may not be realized unless members are also committed to looking for a better meeting place.

Concerning purchasing our own buildings, to do so needs to make good financial sense and many factors must be considered carefully. We have had a few pastors approach us with a proposal to purchase a building. All such proposals are carefully considered and, in some cases, have been approved by the Council. In many cases, the best option is to rent an available meeting hall, but we are open to considering any viable proposal that makes good fiscal sense.

To the statement on the recent survey, “Our current meeting hall serves our local needs well,” 81% of respondents either “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed.” While a large majority of our congregations have suitable meeting halls, nearly 20% of respondents feel that their meeting hall is not meeting the congregation’s needs.

Looking back on a certain time in my ministry, I must admit that I could have done a better job seeking a more suitable hall for one such local congregation. It is easy to neglect doing so, with all the other responsibilities a pastor must consider—as he often pastors multiple congregations spread over many miles. Typically, with the approval of the pastor, a number of members would volunteer to scout out available halls in their area and make recommendations to the pastor or to a committee designated to find a better hall. Working together is often the key to making things happen!

Here are only a few comments of the many that were received regarding the suitability of local meeting halls.

“Where we meet for services is great, but when we have visitors it can be kind of tight. I know if our group continues to grow, and I pray that it does, I think we will have to look to find a new place to have services.”

“We meet in the back hall of a church where there is a lot of storage. There is no mother’s room with any sound barrier. We have had visitors with kids express how difficult it is. The hall is not nice and there is a large amount of work involved with setting up folding chairs, clean up, etc.”

“If we had our own church building we would be able to have more frequent socials and activities.”

“Our current hall is often decorated for worldly holidays, which is confusing for visitors, and annoying to the rest of us. Our pastor is discussing renting a different facility during December and into January each year until the decorations are taken down. But they also decorate for Easter and Halloween. It would be hard to find a place that doesn’t have this. But otherwise, it is a good arrangement.”

“Just purchased our building. The congregation is very loving and helpful.”

“We need a meeting hall with a kitchen where we can warm the food for the potlucks and a place to socialize with the other members and families.”

“We have our own building now, which I believe has greatly increased our congregation’s feelings of togetherness, permanence, and stability.”

“I know that we are looking for a building that will better meet our needs to have classroom space, enough space to hold combined services, a mother’s room, parent’s room, etc.”

“The hall we meet in is drab and has mold in the basement, which often can be smelled upstairs where we meet. The kitchen is very small and barely usable.”

“I love my local congregation. Our biggest concerns are with our meeting hall (held at a middle school). The schools often overlap our meetings with other activities held very close in proximity and these are oftentimes distracting and disruptive. We’ve also been rushed out because the organizers of the school rentals have failed to mention we need to be gone due to other bookings. The school is also very poorly kept in cleanliness; we’ve gone beyond our responsibilities to help clean. Many ordeals have been frustrating, but I understand we are diligently saving and working to have a hall of our own. Praying for God’s guidance in this.”

Brethren, let us all pray that God will provide wonderful places in which we may meet to worship and praise Him!

Owning a building is not as important as meeting in an uplifting and suitable hall. So, if you don’t like the situation you are in regarding your local meeting hall, pray about it and seek a better place in which to meet, fellowship, and worship. Trust that God will provide, but let’s all do our part in seeking halls conducive to worshiping the God who owns it all!

Wishing you all a very inspiring and peaceful Sabbath!