Recently the world noted the death of Sergio Marchionne.

No, he's not an acclaimed Italian opera singer or the director of those so-called "spaghetti westerns" filmed in Italy. He was the head of Fiat-Chrysler and the man credited with pulling both out of dire circumstances. The man was tireless, working impossibly long hours and talking with just about anyone if it helped sell their products. But while he was credited with the feat, he often acknowledged the part that workers paid, including those at the Toledo Jeep plant.
Is there something for us to learn? With a number of congregations facing dire circumstances, looking to close, merge, or join in a multiple parish arrangement, might it be good to look at him and his work ethic? I think one might consider that the right congregational merger could result in a congregation stronger than the sum of its parts. We've often thought that the joining of two weak congregations would result in one large weak congregation, but maybe that's not necessarily so. Neither car manufacturer was doing well, but the resultant corporation seems to be doing fairly well, certainly better than they would have done separately. But merger isn't enough. One has to have a dedicated team of workers as well, and this is a critical point. Merging congregations that consist mostly of 70-80 year-olds may not have the strength to put in the necessary time and energy for the new congregation to serve its community better. It's certainly a factor that needs weighing. Secondly, one needs a leader who is willing to make personal sacrifices and who has a strong vision of where things need to go. Such a person needs to be able to unite the people into one, helping them see why it will do no good to live in the past. In a number of situations, the people will believe that is too much to ask of them, and that's OK. They will continue on their own until the congregation closes. The District will do all it can to help them live out their last days well and close with dignity. But for those who wish to try a new thing, the District will be there to provide the tools, counsel, and expertise to help the congregation work through all that a merger entails. Of course, we pray that all will be done with much prayer and in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. We certainly pray that those considering merger will do so, not for saving themselves, but because they believe they have something to offer their community that is otherwise missing.