Dear brothers and sisters,
For a few years now, the elders have been discussing and praying about the future direction of the church. Pre-pandemic, you may remember, we presented a vision for the church and different activities were kicked-off around that vision. Then the pandemic hit, and we, like every other church, were forced into a different set of priorities. As we came out of the pandemic and reassessed our vision in light of the reality the pandemic left behind, we came to the conclusion that we needed to reconsider our approach in achieving the vision we believe God is calling this church to pursue by investigating alternative pathways.
The pandemic brought about many hardships. As much as our situation as a church was difficult, Harvest, who now shares our building, lost their meeting location, and became homeless. Like many of you, so too have the leaders of both churches wondered… is the Lord using this situation to bring us together and create something new to bless not only the members of the two congregations, but to also better position the church to be a blessing to the community? After many meetings - because that’s what elders do ;) - the leaders of both churches, with the assistance of a church consulting firm, reached the decision that we would indeed be better together.
Today marks an end to the season of wondering and assessing what pathway we should take and to announce our intention to merge with Harvest to accomplish the vision the leaders of both churches believe the Lord is leading us into. Today marks the beginning of a new season for both churches; a season where we begin to plan for the launch of a new, unified church body at the end of this September.
So what does it mean and look like to merge? Great question! That’s the same question the elders of both churches asked each other. A recommended approach, based on its success rate, is to have a leading church and a joining church. Between the two churches, Harvest is better positioned to take on the lead role, and SRC will take on the joining role. That being said, the merger will not result in a larger Harvest congregation. While Harvest will be the lead culture and their leadership will be the leaders of the church, the merger will result in the creation of a new church with a new identity (new name) and the creation of a new church community. This is emphasized in a statement written by the elders and pastors of Harvest during our discussions with them:
The elders and leaders of Harvest Bible Chapel shall commit themselves wholeheartedly to loving, learning, shepherding, and caring for the good people of Swedesford Road Church as they have their own people. The elders and leaders shall create a rough outline of a path toward integrating the two congregations into one, prioritizing relationships and fellowship to build trust and unity for both groups.
For the SRC leadership, a major goal of the merger was around succession planning. Of much importance to the elders has been not only how to best serve the congregation today, but also into the future - how do we best carry on and honor the legacy and faithful service of the men and women who helped establish and care for this church over the past five decades? The merger with Harvest, we believe, allows for this legacy to continue.
Regarding the role of the SRC elders, Steve, Chris, Tim, and Scott will continue as the elders of SRC until September. Additionally, the SRC elders will serve on a transition team, under the existing elder board of Harvest, to assist with activities leading up to the merger and for a period of time after the merger (currently targeted as the end of the year). At this time, it is yet to be determined whether some of the elders of SRC will move onto the elder board of the new church.
Regarding Steve, he will continue to be the senior pastor of SRC until September. As he is also an elder, he will also be a part of the transition team with the other elders. Steve and Susan are currently waiting on the Lord for the direction they should take following the transition period. The other elders would like to take a moment to recognize Steve Carter. If one thing can be said of Steve and his time here, it would be that he loved well in leading this church through some very difficult times. As much as the Lord is opening the door to a merger with Harvest, we believe that He sent Steve in our hour of need to shepherd us through a season of healing and restoration. We are forever honored and grateful for the Lord bringing Steve and Susan to us and for the blessing they have been to us.
Regarding Matt, we have been blessed by Matt’s service, as well as Ashley’s, as they worked to finish their degrees at Westminister and have lovingly served this congregation. We look forward to seeing where the Lord leads both of them in the next steps of their respective career journeys.
Lastly, we’re sure many of you are wondering about Jim and his preaching. At this time, we don’t have a firm answer on what that looks like after September… it will be one of the things that is discussed over the next few months.
There are many details to still work out regarding the merger, and we’d like to do them well, so we’d ask for your prayers and support as we take on the next steps of the merger process. To help with hopefully addressing questions that are on everyone’s minds, please find a FAQ attached to this communication. This FAQ will be updated with new information as we continue through the merger process. Tomorrow, please join us for a special Q&A following the service, where the elders will share some personal perspectives and be available to answer any questions in-person. As always, if anything comes to mind outside of Sunday, please feel free to call, e-mail, or text any of the elders.
To close, there is a little Psalm, only three verses and tucked away towards the back of the book, that we’d like to share with you. In the ESV, the title of Psalm 133 is When Brothers Dwell in Unity. It says the following:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
In a broken and divided world, please join us in rejoicing in the unifying work that God alone is accomplishing in His perfect love and timing to bring His body together for His good purposes. We, the elders of SRC, are forever grateful for His loving care of our little church, and we look forward with expectation for what God has planned.
The pastors and elders of Swedesford Road Church
P.S. We encourage all to attend in person tomorrow for our Q&A. We understand that some may not be able to attend but have questions during the live stream. For those that are remote please text your questions during the live stream to 484-868-4084 (Scott Larsen) and we will be sure to get them addressed!