- Merging two Nashville, Tennessee, congregations enriches both church and community, resulting in new initiatives that spark hope for the future.
- On May 21, 2023, the merged congregants at Glencliff United Methodist Church officially launched The Commons at Glencliff in the Tennessee Western Kentucky Annual Conference.
- The Commons at Glencliff welcomes all people and is LGBTQ+ affirming. Sunday worship and weekday social justice ministries are core components.
In the Parable of the Gospel Feast (Luke 14:15-24), the king hosts a grand banquet for highly esteemed guests, but they don’t show up. They each have excuses, choosing things they consider more important, mostly tending to their earthly wealth. The king commands the servants to go out to the streets and byways to gather those who are hungry and bring them to feast upon the grand banquet that was prepared for those who already have enough.
So, what do two tiny and financially lacking congregations that merged have in common with this parable?
One of the churches – 61st Avenue United Methodist – closed as the gentrification of its impoverished neighborhood forced many of its members out of Nashville, Tennessee, while the other congregation – Glencliff United Methodist Church – was embracing a dream much larger than it ever could achieve on its own.
The common vision of the two congregations was rooted in the gospel feast, believing each had enough to feed a crowd with the one thing that lasts: love that can be tasted and felt.
On Sunday, May 21, 2023, the merged congregants at Glencliff United Methodist Church officially became a mission church whose campus is called The Commons at Glencliff in the Tennessee Western Kentucky
A mission church is built upon connectional relationships with other United Methodist churches as well as not-for-profit organizations. It is seen as a campus rather than a church alone, and at Glencliff, this work has already begun. A mission church knows its members lack the funds to run a local church and requires uniting with others who believe that church is for all, not just those who can afford it.
The Commons at Glencliff is built as an extension of the connectional church, giving new space for others to come and be in relationship with people of different socioeconomical, ethnic and faith perspectives. The Commons at Glencliff welcomes all people and is LGBTQ+ affirming. Sunday worship and weekday social justice ministries are core components.
The first of the connectional programs is the Village at Glencliff, built on the five acres initially conceived to house a much larger church building with wings for Sunday school classrooms and children’s ministries. As the congregation shrank in numbers and aged, the church faced possible closure. The members considered what they did have: plenty of land. Considering the needs of the city, they envisioned tiny homes that some had seen on television, built to care for homeless neighbors with no place but the streets to recover after hospitalization.
By teaming with Open Table Nashville, this small congregation was able to manifest the dream, with 11 homes for our most vulnerable neighbors. The Village at Glencliff is now its own nonprofit organization housed in the space previously used for choir practice. Other nonprofits now surround the Village at Glencliff with gardens for growing crops and fostering animals whose homeless owners may be hospitalized and temporarily unable to care for their beloved pets. Recovery ministries are also a priority within and beyond the congregation.
The worshipping congregation has experienced great loss of members over the last several years, but its “gospel feast” mentality continues to attract others who see God’s love in new ways. Judy Burton came to Glencliff through her friend Carmen, who kept “bugging her” to visit. Judy said, “I never thought at this age I could find such good friends. It has given me a new outlook every day. I don’t worry as much. Y’all gave me that new life because I have a purpose every day.”
Leading the congregation are local pastor Ingrid McIntyre and four deacons: Nicole Poland Nyembo, Joy Bronson, Ryan Dunn and Neelley Hicks. Three of the deacons serve in secondary appointments and volunteer at the church.
As relationships are founded upon God’s expansive love that practices love for neighbor, the Spirit grows, giving light and an overflowing banquet.
For more information on Glencliff United Methodist Church and The Commons at Glencliff, go to glencliffumc.org.
Hicks is a deacon serving in the Tennessee Western Kentucky Annual Conference.
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