ELYRIA CAMPUS PROJECT

 

OPEN HOUSE

Peace Mennonite Church hosted North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church for a time of fellowship and combined worship on the afternoon of Mar. 20. The presence of the Holy Spirit was evident in our conversations, singing and prayers together.
 

CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS ON APR. 3

Both North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church and Peace Mennonite Church will host congregational meetings on Apr. 3 to vote on the proposed merger. NOEFC’s meeting will be at 10:20 am in the Sanctuary (between services); PMC’s will follow the worship service there. Both congregations are encouraged to review the frequently asked questions below prior to the meetings.
 

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PROPOSED MERGER OF NORTH OLMSTED EVANGELICAL FRIENDS CHURCH AND PEACE MENNONITE CHURCH

 

How did this merger come about?

In the fall of 2021, leadership from Peace Mennonite Church (PMC) approached North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church (NOEFC) about the possibility of becoming a campus of NOEFC. After several conversations among the churches’ lay and staff leaders, PMC voted in January to enter a two‑month discernment process, during which a leadership team from both congregations would determine the viability and desirability of a merger in line with God’s leading. As that process has come to its conclusion, the leadership team and NOEFC’s Elder Board are recommending that the merger take place.

Why are we considering a merger?

Over the past 20 years, PMC has seen declining numbers and was faced with both recent and upcoming losses of key pastoral and lay leadership. These factors, combined with theological alignment with NOEFC, prompted their outreach in order to see a thriving ministry continue in that community.

What are the benefits of this proposed merger?

Although there are many existing churches in Elyria, we believe we can meet distinct needs of the community, especially younger families, by providing strong discipleship opportunities for children and youth as well as by supporting parents, singles and older adults in a smaller, family-like environment—but with the benefits of a larger church. Through the merger, both locations will share staff and administrative support, providing greater resources for ministry and economies of scale in areas like curriculum development, financial management, contracts and insurance. In addition, because a significant number of NOEFC attendees live in Lorain County, the merger can provide a location closer to home for them, with more opportunities for connection and service.

What does a “campus” mean?

The location on West Ridge Road will become part of NOEFC, with shared central leadership, staff and administrative services. The result of the merger will be one church with two locations.

Who will be the pastor in Elyria?

Pastor David Hoovler will serve as campus pastor in Elyria while retaining responsibilities for adult discipleship programming at both locations. In addition, NOEFC’s other ministry staff will oversee efforts in their respective areas of ministry focus at both locations. Pastor Geoff Schultz will be the senior pastor for the combined church.

Will the campus have a new name, and what will it be?

The Elyria campus will receive a new name to signify this new chapter of ministry both internally and, importantly, to the broader community. Options will be considered over the coming months, with the final selection to be approved by the NOEFC Elder Board. Until a formal name is selected, the location will be referred to as “North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church, Elyria Campus.”

What will happen to leadership at PMC?

Pastor George Dunn is retiring after many years of faithful service as PMC’s interim pastor. Hans and Kara Leaman, current lay and worship leaders, plan to move away from Elyria this summer. With the merger, the NOEFC Elder Board and ministry staff will have leadership responsibilities over the new campus. Those who have served in ministry at PMC are encouraged to continue to serve in coordination with NOEFC leadership.

What will happen to the PMC facilities?

The property on West Ridge Road will be transferred to NOEFC. Along with ownership of the property, NOEFC will assume responsibility for its upkeep and for equipping the facility for effective ministry in the community.

What will the worship services be like?

The orders of worship at both churches already share many similarities. Pastor Jason Cork will have primary responsibility for planning music and worship, coordinating worship teams at both locations. To promote alignment between the Elyria and North Olmsted locations, and as part of an effort to minister to younger generations, there will be a shift at the Elyria campus toward a worship band and a greater focus on more contemporary worship selections, while still maintaining connections to the rich musical heritage of our faith.

Additional audio/visual resources, including new screens and an updated sound system, will provide new opportunities during the service, including clearer slides/worship lyrics, better sound quality and the ability to incorporate video elements.

The Sunday sermons at Elyria will be a combination of in-person messages (from the campus pastor, other NOEFC ministry staff and guests) and video messages from the North Olmsted campus. Occasionally, the message may be recorded in Elyria and shared by video at North Olmsted. Through coordination among ministry staff, some sermon series will involve identical messages or topics at both locations, while others will be different. At times, the two campuses will join for combined worship.

How will the budget and finances be managed?

The budget and finances for the Elyria campus will be part of the overall NOEFC budget. Current NOEFC financial administration practices, including personnel and annual financial reviews, will cover both locations.

How will current PMC membership be transferred?

When PMC members vote on approval of the merger, they will have an opportunity to transfer their membership to NOEFC on the same ballot. Copies of the Evangelical Friends Church–Eastern Region (EFC-ER) Faith and Practice will be available for review in hard copy and at efcer.org prior to the vote. Those who do not wish to transfer their membership at the time of the merger may do so later following the usual NOEFC membership process.

Will PMC’s denomination and affiliation change?

Yes. Through the merger process, the church will become part of NOEFC, and by extension EFC-ER. This is a denomination within the Friends (Quaker) movement comprising approximately 100 churches, primarily in the eastern United States and Canada. For more information about EFC‑ER, visit efcer.org.

What will happen to PMC’s organizational affiliations and supported missionaries?

Because PMC will become part of NOEFC, and therefore a Friends church, official congregational affiliations with the Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Central Committee and other Mennonite or Anabaptist organizations will not continue. PMC is not currently financially supporting any missionaries, but is connected with at least one missionary couple for prayer support. We intend to maintain this connection. Individuals are of course welcome to continue personal affiliations and support of Mennonite organizations and missionaries.

What will the merger cost? Can NOEFC afford a campus?

As always, we trust God to provide when he calls. PMC has no outstanding debt or mortgage on the property and will not be required to make any payment to the Mennonite Church USA in the merger. There may be legal fees associated with the property transfer, but those are not expected to be extensive. Certain upgrades are planned for the facility, including expanded audio/visual equipment and new flooring. Those expenses will be paid from the existing PMC reserve account. Moving forward, we anticipate some cost savings overall through shared resources, and we trust for additional income through the generosity of God’s people as both campuses grow.

Who will decide if this merger happens?

The merger will be an action item for approval by PMC and NOEFC members at separate congregational meetings on Apr. 3, 2022. Both PMC and NOEFC must vote to affirm the merger in order for it to take place.

What is the timeline for the proposed merger?

PMC voted unanimously to enter the discernment process on Jan. 16, 2022. Pastor David Hoovler has been serving at PMC on Sundays and at least one other day during the week since the beginning of February, and we have had additional collaboration in worship and other areas. The leadership team from both congregations has been meeting throughout February and March, with working groups discussing what our combined ministry would look like in different areas. At the close of this process, both the leadership team and NOEFC’s Elder Board recommend that the merger take place.

On Apr. 3, the members of both congregations will vote on the merger. If both approve, PMC will close with a celebration on Palm Sunday (Apr. 10).

To celebrate the resurrection as one united church, we will worship in combined services at the North Olmsted campus on Easter Sunday (Apr. 17). Carpools will be coordinated to ensure that everyone who usually attends in Elyria will be able to join the combined services. A “soft launch” of the NOEFC Elyria campus will occur with worship on Sunday, Apr. 24.

Continued planning and integration of ministry and processes will occur during the spring and summer, including combined efforts on Vacation Bible School. We will work toward a formal launch of the Elyria campus in September, following outreach to the community about the new work that is beginning.

If the merger happens, what will change?

After Palm Sunday, Peace Mennonite Church will be formally dissolved, and the Elyria campus of NOEFC will begin with worship on Apr. 24. Signage, bulletins and other materials will reflect this change of identity.

NOEFC will encourage attenders who feel led to this work to participate at the Elyria campus. We will begin moving toward greater integration of ministry in children, youth and adult discipleship programs, fellowship events and outreach.

As indicated above, participants will notice some changes to worship at the Elyria campus to bring increased alignment as our combined worship team serves both locations. From time to time the Elyria campus, and to a lesser degree the North Olmsted campus, will have shared sermons presented by video to promote unity of purpose and direction.

What will happen if the merger doesn’t go through?

If either congregation votes to reject the merger, it will not occur. Pastor David will return to his existing role at NOEFC. Both congregations will go our separate ways, with blessings for one another as we continue to serve God within our respective traditions and communities.

What are my next steps?

Please pray for God’s discernment for yourself, for our leadership and for both congregations at large. If you are currently a member of PMC, review the EFC-ER Faith and Practice and decide whether you want to transfer your membership to NOEFC if the merger is approved. Prayerfully consider how God is leading you to serve his church during this time.

What if I have other questions?

Questions not addressed above can be directed to NOEFC’s presiding elder, Tom Getz (getzready@gmail.com, 440-830-1262), or to PMC Elder Hans Leaman (hbleaman@gmail.com, 717‑808-6682), prior to the congregational votes on Apr. 3.

NOEFC CONGREGATIONAL MEETING: ELYRIA RESOLUTION

The NOEFC Board of Elders will offer the following motion at the Apr. 3 congregational meeting.

“Be it resolved that, contingent upon an affirmative vote by the congregation of Peace Mennonite Church in favor of the proposed merger, North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church hereby approves the merger with Peace Mennonite Church under the terms and conditions set forth in the proposal, resulting in the ownership and control of the property and assets of the former Peace Mennonite Church in Elyria, Ohio, transferring to North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church and the church hereafter being an extension or campus of North Olmsted Evangelical Friends Church.”

 

ELYRIA CAMPUS INFORMATIONAL MEETING (FEB. 2)

A meeting on Feb. 2 provided information about the Elyria Campus Project with Peace Mennonite Church. Video of the meeting is provided for the NOEFC congregation to learn more about the process as well as how to get involved through prayer and service. 
 
Note that the video has been edited to remove portions that were inaudible in the recording (mostly questions and prayers from those in attendance). Pastor Geoff and Pastor David repeated the substance of questions over the microphones before answering them.
 
A handout was provided to attendees; the contents of that handout are reproduced below. For more information or questions, contact Pastor David, pastordavid@noefc.org.

PEACE MENNONITE CHURCH

  • Affiliated with Ohio Conference, Mennonite Church USA
  • Founded in 1983
  • Peak attendance (early 1990s) of about 80; current attendance of 15–20
  • Interim pastor for past five years
  • Lay leadership challenges
  • Stable financial situation

 

FACILITY

  • Located at 9300 W. Ridge Road, Elyria
  • Built in 1980s; well maintained
  • Situated on 11 acres with pavilion, community gardens; farming lease

 

DISCERNMENT PROCESS

  • In November and December, PMC leadership engaged with NOEFC staff and elders about the possibility of a partnership
  • On Jan. 16, PMC members unanimously voted to enter a discernment process about whether PMC should become a campus of NOEFC
  • Pastor David Hoovler will provide leadership and preach at PMC in February & March
  • Leadership team
    • John Bush, NOEFC
    • Anthony Hall, PMC
    • Wendy Hleba, NOEFC
    • Pastor David Hoovler, NOEFC
    • Hans Leaman, PMC
    • Kara Leaman, PMC
    • Pastor Geoff Schultz, NOEFC
    • Naomi Simpson, PMC
    • Ted Smith, NOEFC
  • Areas of prayer and conversation (“big-picture” elements)
    • God’s vision for Elyria through our churches
    • Structure & financials
    • Worship & music
    • Children’s ministry
  • Objectives
    • Assess viability of a merger
    • Congregational votes by PMC & NOEFC in early April
    • Formal closure of PMC on Palm Sunday
    • Opening of Elyria campus on Easter Sunday
    • Full relaunch/grand opening in September