I served as the Senior Pastor of MCC San Jose from December 1, 2003 until April 4, 2010. I was followed by Rev. William Knight, who served the church in 2010 & 2011, and Rev. Rebecca Anderson, who was pastor in 2011 & 2012. Following a congregational vote in early 2012, the church decided to close. Its final service was on February 26, 2012.
Here are my answers to some questions that people have asked me about the church and its decision to close.
What happened? Why did the church close? Who is to blame?
In recent years, the patterns of worship have been changing. This is something that is happening not only in MCC, but in many other types of churches: Methodist, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical, Conservative, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, etc. The trend is towards larger churches, or away from church altogether. As a result, small churches of every type have been closing in recent years.
Metropolitan Community Churches have been particularly affected by this. Small churches in other denominations often have well-established endowments or historic investments in real estate which help support their current operations. Metropolitan Community Churches usually do not have these sorts of resources. This means that the trend away from smaller churches, present in every denomination, is particularly pronounced for Metropolitan Community Churches. Of the sixteen Metropolitan Community Churches operating in MCC’s Northwest District Region A in the year 2000, only five were still open at the end of 2011. Of those original sixteen churches, MCC San Jose is the twelfth to close.
I don’t think there’s anyone to “blame” for the closure of these churches. They were good churches, with good congregations and good pastors. They simply reached the end of their natural lives.
Does this mean all Metropolitan Community Churches are doomed?
Larger churches are still doing well. Each church has its own pattern, and there is no reason that healthy older churches or healthy new churches should not continue to be vibrant communities. Some of these trends are probably also geographic – small churches may be doing better in other parts of the world than they are doing in the Pacific Northwest.
Across all denominations, I believe that there will continue to be healthy small churches. Some people like small churches and will continue to seek them out. With this said, the current social trends lead me to believe that there will be fewer small churches in the future than there are now.
How do you feel?
Lent is a season of mourning for me this year.
Rev. Rebecca Anderson invited me back for MCC San Jose’s final service, and she did a great job of leading the church through this final transition. At the closing service, I was struck once again by what a special place MCC San Jose is, and now was. I am sad that this unique and wonderful community is gone.
I am grateful for the time that I got to serve at MCC San Jose’s pastor and grateful that I got to be a part of such an extraordinary congregation. We did amazing things together – transforming individual lives, serving the wider community, and creating music, writings, liturgies and videos that made a difference in the lives of thousands of people all around the world. I don’t regret a minute of the time that I spent at MCC San Jose. I’m sorry that it’s over, and I’m deeply grateful that I got to be a part of it.