The oldest Methodist church in Kansas City has become the newest campus of the Church of the Resurrection.
Central UMC, located near the University of Missouri – Kansas City campus, is now Resurrection Brookside, making it the sixth campus for the Church of the Resurrection (with its main campus in Leawood, Kansas). The launch service for the new United Methodist Church will be on December 18.
Church of the Resurrection has two other campuses in Missouri, one downtown right next to the Kansas City Star and the other in Blue Springs.
The idea for this change came from within Central, straight from the pulpit.
“It was a lightning bolt moment that was some time in the making,” said Rev. Dr. Sally Haynes, former Central UMC pastor.
Haynes was watching the last regular-season Chiefs game of the 2021-2022 season. The Church of the Resurrection was running commercials during the television broadcast about how they had bought a cup of coffee for healthcare workers to thank them for their work during the pandemic. Haynes thought that sounded great and started considering using that idea at Central.
“Then I thought, ‘If we were part of Church of the Resurrection, we would have already been doing that.’” she said.
Although Central was financially secure, it had been a long time since it had seen substantial growth. It has had several different pastors over the past few decades, with occasional bumps in attendance but no significant, lasting change.
“The trajectory of the church was a long, gentle slide,” Haynes said. “We were probably five years away from having conversations about the church being in trouble and 10 years from needing to talk about the possibility of closure.”
Using the same approach that a pastor might take before considering a capital campaign, Haynes first talked with a few key leaders in the church, the entire leadership team and then the church at large. Initially, people were shocked at the suggestion, but once it sunk in, many wanted to learn more about what it might look like.
Cindy Petrie was chair of the leadership team at Central UMC. She and her husband Brian had been part of the choir and were very involved in the church since they started attending there 10 years ago.
When Haynes first told Petrie about the idea of joining COR, it came as a surprise.
“At first, it seemed really out of the left field, but then the points Sally was making made a lot of sense,” Petrie said.
The announcement that the idea was under consideration was made to the church the Sunday after Easter. Two weeks later, Rev. Adam Hamilton was at the church for a 9 a.m. meeting that proceeded into the 10:30 Sunday morning worship.
“That went well,” Haynes said. “He just conveyed that it was hope that the church does the right thing – whatever that may be. When people met him, many found he was different than what they expected from a megachurch pastor.”
Later some laity from COR, Blue Springs branch campuses and the West campus in Olathe came to the church to talk about their experiences and answer questions.
Missouri Bishop Bob Farr asked to come to the church and endorsed the plan, explaining how he had seen other churches in similar positions decline and have little hope for a brighter future that they are likely to have as part of COR.
“That swayed some of the die-hard Methodists. If their Bishop thought it was a good idea, they were for it,” Haynes said.
As people processed the idea, Haynes saw a bell curve forming on the reactions, with a few people on opposite sides of the curve strongly opposed to or strongly in favor of the action. Still, most people were somewhere in the middle, open to considering the idea.
One of those people initially was Brandon Cummins. He started attending Central about six years ago after doing quite a bit of church shopping in the city.
“Central felt like it communicated God’s vision to the community and us,” he said.
It wasn’t easy for him when he was told about Central closing to become a campus of COR. Central was the church his family chose. It was where they were raising their children. They had come to understand and identify with Central – and they liked it. They weren’t looking for a change. That was their reaction. Over time deeper thinking led them to the point where it was easier to see it wasn’t just about them.
“We had to ask ourselves, ‘Is this about us, or is it about the mission of the church?’” Cummins said. They believe from a missional stance. The church will likely be much more effective at engaging its community as part of the Church of the Resurrection. Seeing Central close is hard, but knowing that the facility, and many of the people of Central, will be moving forward in ministry makes it much more manageable.
Cummins spoke with a fellow member who had been part of Central for four decades. That person shared that they had friends who recently had to close their church, only to see the entire contents get auctioned off a week later and the building goes up for sale – to be used for whatever purpose the buyer chooses. Having Central close, only to reopen as a new United Methodist church with a fresh infusion of life and energy, is a very different situation.
Cummins went to a meet and greet where he met the new pastor, Rev. Wendy Chrostek. While he was in the meeting, his children and Chrostek’s children were playing together in the lobby.
Prior to the pandemic, Central was averaging about 120 in worship. Lately, the church has been averaging closer to 70 for in-person worship. Haynes certainly understood people’s reluctance to close as Central; she was no Johnny-come-lately to the church. Many years before serving as a pastor at Central, Haynes was married in that church.
The vote to become part of the Church of the Resurrection was taken on June 30, the day of her 39th wedding anniversary. Of the 89 people who voted, about 90 percent were in favor.
A few people have left after a vote. Hamilton told Haynes that he would expect a few more to leave after changes are made because it may no longer be their preferred worship style. And a few new people have started attending after hearing about the church becoming a campus of COR, and some others have told Haynes that they plan on attending the church after the transition.
In some ways, the church has come full circle. Central is the oldest Protestant church in Kansas City and played a pivotal role in the birth of the Resurrection in 1990. Resurrection’s Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton was associate pastor at Central UMC when he received the call to start a new church in southern Johnson and Jackson Counties.
Central members have helped bring this dream to life in many ways. Many spent hours on phone banks, calling strangers to invite them to the launch of a new church that started in a funeral home on State Line Road. Central members attended the first worship services in that funeral home, and over the years, about 80 people ended up joining Resurrection. Many of these people are now involved in helping launch Resurrection Brookside.
“This is a remarkable opportunity to continue and expand upon the historic work Central has done in building a Christian community in this part of the city,” said Resurrection Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton.
Petrie’s official role as Leadership Team Chair ended with Central, and at the beginning of October, it was down to wrapping up some final paperwork. But she intends to be an active part of the transition process and looks forward to being part of COR at Brookside when it officially launches.
There was some paperwork involved in this process. People can follow their hearts, but churches also have to follow the rules. An unusual transition like this did require a lot of logistical work not only between the two congregations but also between the Missouri Conference and the Great Plains Conference, which hold the property in trust for local congregations. Most of Central’s assets were transferred to Resurrection, subject to all donor restrictions. However, the members of Central with Resurrection’s support did donate one large fund to the annual conference to support Kuomba United Methodist Church. Before the closing of Central, Kuomba was a ministry of Central. It is now being established as a standalone new church, starting with the Conference providing financial and administrative support. The financial support is mainly coming from the fund provided by Central.
The members of Central are being encouraged to join other United Methodist Churches. For those wishing to, Resurrection will receive them as members after a waiting period. The district will maintain a record of those members. Anyone who becomes a member at the Resurrection site will be a member of Resurrection, served by pastors appointed by the Great Plains Conference. This means the members who join Resurrection will not be eligible for leadership roles in Missouri that require membership in a Missouri congregation. That said, it would be possible for a participant in Resurrection’s site to hold their local church membership in another Missouri congregation.
As with all the Missouri sites operated by Resurrection, pastors at the site will be appointed by the Great Plains bishop. Clergy membership within the annual conference is largely independent of appointment.
“Rev. Sally Haynes, the last pastor of Central, will become an employee of Resurrection, appointed by the Great Plains bishop, but her Conference membership remains with Missouri,” Rev. Nate Berneking, Missouri Conference director of finance and administrative ministries said.
“All clergy appointed to serve in Missouri sites will be invited to attend the session of the Missouri Annual Conference as guests in the event they aren’t clergy members of the Missouri Annual Conference.”
The Missouri Annual Conference, Great Plains Annual Conference and Resurrection have finalized a Memorandum of Understanding related to all of Resurrection’s Missouri sites. Under that MOU, apportionments are calculated and paid by Resurrection’s Missouri sites as if they were standalone churches in Missouri. Therefore, they will report their year-end statistics to Missouri and have their apportionments calculated based on Missouri’s expense-based formula, paid to the Missouri Annual Conference.
All three Resurrection sites follow the same pattern as the new site, as agreed in the MOU. Moreover, the MOU largely formalized what was already practiced by the other two sites.
“This is a win-win for Missouri and Resurrection,” said Rev. Nate Berneking. “Resurrection is extremely successful in ministry conduct and will provide three strong sites to support Missouri’s ministries for many years to come.”