Linda M. Hilliard and UCC minister, Reverend Gretchen J. Switzer combined their talents and experience to create a book for churches that find themselves at a critical crossroad where ending their ministry may be a possibility. Finishing with Grace: A Guide to Selling, Merging or Closing Your Church is written for congregations, lay leaders, clergy and judicatory personnel dealing with churches in transition.
Finishing With Grace goes not advocate the closing of churches, but teaches congregations who are without other options how to move through this time faithfully. The book chronicles the process of making life-altering changes in your congregation and provides guidance for approaching the spiritual and emotional aspects of having to sell, merge or conclude your church‘s ministry. It offers practical help for dealing with your church’s building, staff, money and belongings. Vignettes highlighting specific events experienced by the authors bring the book down to the most meaningful personal level.
Since the publication of the book in late 2010, the authors have participated in a number of both local and national presentations. In June 2011, Gretchen conducted two workshops on church closings at the Interim Ministry Conference in Nashville Tennessee. Finishing With Grace was the subject of a national web-seminar on church mergers in December 2011, led by both authors with input from three church merger specialists.
The book recognizes that an increasing number of faith communities are being forced to close for a wide variety of reasons. Some decisions to close churches come from a church hierarchy. Other congregations find themselves running out of money, recovering from pastoral betrayal, such as sexual abuse by a pastor, or living in a rapidly aging, less-wealthy congregation.
Reverend Switzer has eighteen years as a UCC Intentional Interim minister specializing in churches-at-risk. Linda Hilliard is former Committee on Ministry Chair (MA Central Association), and former moderator of Grace UCC in Framingham.
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