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Newsletter April 18, 2013New Beginnings at New HopeVOLUME 1, ISSUE 16
PPRC Meeting

A PPRC meeting was held at New Hope on Wednesday, April 10. The meeting was in response to requests from the churches regarding the status of the pastor. New Hope has asked for a change and the other churches want the pastor to return. Attending from New Hope were John Fairey, Glenn Simpson and Art Whetstone. Pastor Felkel was not present. The meeting was chaired by Joann Lightfoot of Cattle Creek, who turned it over to District Superintendent Frederick Yebuah. He stated the purpose of the meeting was to consider a new direction for New Hope. He asked for opinions on the pastor from members of each of the three chuches. Cattle Creek and Bethel spoke favorably on the job that Curtis was doing and were high on his accomplishments. New Hope members were critical, citing lack of member visitation, no presence in the community, poor preparation for Sunday services and a significant decline in attendance during his tenure. After hearing this discussion, Brother Frederick had the following presentation as to what the Conference was prepared to do at this time:

1.  New Hope will be assigned an Assistant Pastor who will officially report to Curtis under the current 3-church setup. This would be in name only, as Curtis would no longer be involved in the affairs of New Hope. He would devote his full time and attention to Bethel and Cattle Creek.

2.  New Hope cannot be granted a full charge at this time as it is too late in the conference year for a changes of that magnitude. However, the proposed solution would mean that all of New Hope's worship and other functions would be conducted as if they were a separate, standalone church.

3.  The change would be effective for the upcoming conference year. New Hope will operate for one year under this arrangement. This will allow time to rebuild the membership and also for the Conference to consider other assignment possibilities.

4.  The Assistant Pastor has not been selected but could be someone from a local church in Orangeburg.

5.  New Hope would continue to pay its share of the salary ($10,000 per year) except it would go to the Assistant Pastor.

6.  The ownership of the parsonage should be determined. Ownership is a separate issue from the operation which has been conducted by the three churches together for many years. If New Hope is the legal owner, then the parsonage would belong to them, and all rights and responsibilties would follow. The balance in the parsonage fund should be distributed to the three churches after needed repairs have been made to the property.

Following a discussion, Brother Frederick asked for a motion to approve his recommendations. The motion for an assistant pastor for New Hope was made by Glenn Simpson, seconded by Dwight Horton and passed unanimously. Brother Frederick said he would discuss this proposal with Curtis.

Council Meeting

An Administrative Council meeting was held on April 16 at the church. Present were Pastor Felkel, John Fairey, Glenn Simpson and Art Whetstone. After a brief business session, Chair John Fairey asked Curtis to address the group regarding his meeting with the District Superintendent. Curtis said at that meeting, the decision was made for him to stay on as pastor at New Hope. He did not feel right about quitting the church in its darkest hour. He has plans to organize visits to non-attending members and others in the community. He would devote considerable time to this endeavor. The other churches are in good shape and could manage with less of his time. He was confident that with his attention to visitation the members would return.

Needless to say, this was an unexpected turn of events, to learn that the pastor would reject the wishes of the congregations and the conference. Curtis was asked about the recommendation that Brother Frederick had made at the PPRC that would permit New Hope to have an assistant pastor and separate herself from the three church charge. He was told that it was more than a recommendation. It was voted on and carried unanimously, including members from all three churches. He appeared to be unfamiliar with it and did not wish to discuss it.

A Year in Review

About a year ago, on April 1, 2012, a membership meeting took place to discuss the fate of the church. It was rumored that we would be closing at the end of the conference year. The main topic as it turned out was the disappointment with the pastor. It was felt to be the primary reason for the declining attendance. This dissatisfaction had been made known to Reverend Hipp, the District Superintendent at the time. In addition, contact was established with Brother Frederick who took office on July 1, 2012. He arranged for Jim Arant, congregation specialist, to meet with us, the first such meeting taking place in November, 2012. It didn't take long to figure out that we needed personal communication with the missing members. In the January 25 newsletter, I wrote "we will begin a member canvas which will be led by the pastor. You will be contacted by phone and asked to accomodate him with a personal visit." As of this writing, no visits of missing members have been reported by the pastor to the Committee.

What now? We thought we finally had a path forward that would give us a chance to resume doing God's work in the community. Clearly, we have a disagreement on how to proceed. But we have a DS who is participating and a consultant who is working with us.

We have asked for a meeting with Brother Frederick to seek clarification on why his directives and the wishes of the churches did not stand. Our next meeting with Jim Arant is on May 7, at which time we should have some results from Curtis' visitation efforts. Meanwhile, work will continue on the church and fellowship hall. Parsonage repairs will begin and ownership will be determined. The cemetery committee will swing into action. And we will continue praying for God's guidance. Would you pray with us? May God bless you and the town of Rowesville.

Art Whetstone, Lay Leader