I didn't write much about the nuts and bolts of our forth option which is to share our facility. It is pretty cut and dry; we'd need to create a landlord/tenant agreement, we'd have to figure out how to share space and expenses, and (of course) we'd have to find a willing partner.
During the session itself, there wasn't a whole lot of discussion on this particular option other than some thinking through some of the logistics. Obviously at this point, if we could find someone who wanted to share our space, while it wouldn't solve all of our problems, it would be a help. The emotion just wasn't there as there has been for some of our other options, which is about what I expected.
What was totally funny to me was an interaction I had in the grocery store after the session. One of our members works in the store. Both he and his wife are deacons. He has had to work Sundays and I haven't seen him much, so I stopped to chat for a bit. He told me that his wife had been keeping him up to date on the meetings. He then said "I'll tell you one thing we definitely can't do and that's share the building! There's no way you could get those people to figure out how to share space." I couldn't help but laugh.
After our brief discussion on sharing the space, I asked people some general questions:
1. Having gone through 4 options so far, which do you prefer most? Least?
2. which option do you think makes most sense for us? Least sense?
3. What do you think God is calling us to do?
4. How are you feeling about the process up to this point?
I had them write down their responses to these questions and asked them to keep the paper so that we could talk about the first two questions down the road. We then had a discussion of questions 3 and 4. I tried to make it clear, that I wasn't asking in question 3 which option does God want us to pick (guess ing that would be the same as #1 for most of them) but what does God want from us in general. Some really good thoughtful responses: to know that if we close we haven't failed, to provide ministries of care for the neighborhood, to risk doing something that might be hard, to be faithful... Good answers.
Then I asked how they were feeling about the process. Some felt frustration. Some felt anger. Some felt the process wasn't doing any good. Others felt that despite the frustration, it was good to go through the process. Someone mentioned that they didn't realize that we had so many options. For some, the primary value is that they get to vent. I mentioned my feeling that the process feels really slow. Some agreed. Others felt like so much info was being thrown at them that they felt like were going at lightspeed. One person said it's helping them to deal with reality. Perhaps needlessly, but I added that they were dealing with realities that should have been dealt with ten or more years ago and that's why it is so hard now. Not sure they wanted to hear that.
In any case, we have one more option, mergers, to discuss and then a process of decision making has to take place. I think that part is making me anxious. What's the best way to decide how we move forward? Do we just vote straight up? I can't see anyone voting for us to end well, though I still maintain that that MIGHT be the most faithful thing we could do. I'm hoping for some inspiration as we enter the last leg of this race. Prayers are appreciated.