Leaders throughout the synod gathered on Tuesday, September 2 to receive a preliminary assessment from our consultants for the synod’s strategic plan pilot project initiative in the Bronx Conference. The presentation put forward seeks to address a simple question: "How can we remove the obstacles that prevent us from reaching more people who need to hear the gospel of Christ?"
The Bronx report is a comprehensive review of the physical condition of its churches, the number of congregants who are able to attend weekly services, the ability of these facilities to offer community-based programming, and how best to bring additional faithful through the door. The independent consulting firm, Daxko/T2, has asked the synod to consider consolidations, the sale of property, the reinvention of some existing churches to permit construction of appropriate mixed use on their sites, and the opportunity for new, more accessible sites of ministry.
This report looks at options and, in the process, compels us to face harsh realities regarding our physical structures that, in some cases, are out of code, out of place, or out of time. We have long recognized that a number of buildings are literal obstacles to the faithful and those who need to hear our message. In some instances our churches have no means of offering the disabled access, and a woefully obsolete infrastructure from the early 20th century puts some churches' very operation into doubt. For others, the faithful no longer live anywhere near the community church and its pews welcome only a handful for weekly services.
This report is a proposal for change, one that allows us to consider how finite dollars can be made to do infinite good. The findings require us to analyze, discuss, and review the options contained in the presentation. If nothing else, it reminds us that change is taking place, regardless of whether we respond to the realities or not.
Regardless of the individual challenges chronicled in the report, the document will be the topic of much thoughtful study, debate, and analysis by synod leadership, but it recognizes that a number of our churches are inadequate to the task of being a welcoming haven and action must be taken to resolve the situation.
The September 2nd presentation was made to Bishop Robert Rimbo, the Bronx Conference pastors and members of the Executive Committee, the bishop’s senior staff, the pastoral care team, other pilot project area deans, and the Steering Committee for the Strategic Plan. Bronx Dean Fernando Otero will convene a meeting of the Bronx pastors to begin discerning the recommendations and future steps.