Perusing the Faith and Values section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I came across a little story -- 335 words -- about a little church -- Sunday attendance of 15 -- that decided to disband and start over. Folks at the First Baptist Church of Valmeyer, Ill. -- soon to be called GraceRidge -- are extremely open about where they think they went wrong:
"In the past, we may have unintentionally alienated ourselves from the community and possibly focused too heavily on nonessential issues," said the church's pastor, the Rev. Rob Gion Jr.
The church opened in the 1950s but somehow lost its mission along the way, he said. ...
In a recent letter to church members, Gion said the church in the past may have displayed a message of condemnation rather than grace, made people think that church's members are better than others, and been narrow-minded about issues like drinking and dancing.
Gion said members stayed away from an annual picnic of churches in Valmeyer because alcohol was served, for example.
Church member Darlene Kettler, 57, said they gained "a bad reputation" and that something had to be done.
"We've done an awful lot of prayer on this," she said.
The online version of the story links to a letter sent to neighbors.
Readers learn that the church plans to remain affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention while making a fresh start:
Gion said members came together to reflect on the role of the church and the message they were preaching.
"We looked at where the church is at now and the history, and we didn't feel like we are or have been all that God would want this church to be," he said.
The problem with the story?
It is so utterly vague as to what, if anything, this little church still believes or plans to preach in the future. What does God want this church to be? I have absolutely no idea after reading this story.
My suspicion is that this piece was written by an overworked suburban writer filing stories in the same day from the local police blotter, fire department reports, the zoning commission and, yes, this little Baptist church.
That said, in a perfect world, a "slice of life" like this could be developed into so much more.
Neighbors could be interviewed about their perceptions of the church and their reactions to the planned changes. Members could go into more detail about their faith and how it's evolved (specifics, please).
Context could be added about other Baptist churches (and United Methodist Churches and Churches of Christ and so on) eschewing name-brand labels in a non-denominational age. Background could be offered on whether there's any evidence that a dying church filled with older members can remake itself at this stage.
The headline on the story proclaims:
Valmeyer church regroups under new banner
I'd sure love to know what that banner is.