Three Northeast Philadelphia congregations have agreed to share clergy and some ministries in a collaboration known as God’s Grace Lutheran Community.
St. John (Mayfair), Redemption and St. Petri-Hope congregations voted by large margins Sept. 13 to enter into the new network. The move is not a merger – congregations retain their own councils and buildings. Synod staff and deans helped to facilitate the collaboration process.
Under the agreement the congregation’s pastors are now called by Synod Council to serve God’s Grace community. Each congregation will receive the same pastoral attention, but the collaboration’s clergy team will share the duties.
“The biggest difference is that pastors are able to draw from their own strengths,” said the Rev. Dee Emmert, a God’s Grace pastor who had been called to St. John’s. All three congregations will benefit from her administrative skills, and the Rev. Dana Heiserer will coordinate youth, family and education ministries. They share pastoral duties with the Rev. Tricia Neale, who is called one-quarter time to the collaboration and three-quarters to the Feast of Justice hunger ministry.
The collaboration “is primarily not about finances,” said Emmert. While there are not significant cost savings, “it allows us to be much more efficient with the resources we do have.”
Through working on the collaboration process and now together on a community board, members of the three churches “have developed friends they would not have had,” Emmert said. Relationships will continue to be built via fellowship events and common work with Lydia’s Closet, Feast of Justice and Rhawnhurst Turning Point. The collaboration is also allowing the congregations to consider new ministries, such as a young adult group and a grief support group, that none of the congregations had the resources to start on their own.