Conference Launches Lighthouse Congregations
This season of disaffiliation is painful for many, especially for those who wish to remain part of the United Methodist Church but are members of churches that have voted to leave the denomination. Conference leadership has heard from some of these individuals and the most pervasive question is, “Where do I go now?”
As conversations evolved about how to best care for those who may be feeling adrift, leadership turned to the connection and researched how other conferences are caring for people who are seeking new United Methodist homes. In consultation with the Western North Carolina Conference of the UMC, a vision began to emerge of how Western Pennsylvania could adapt their concept of safe havens to best care for our own people during this time of grief and discernment.
The Conference is excited to announce the establishment of “Lighthouse Congregations” - local churches in the Western PA Conference that are particularly equipped to welcome anyone whose church has closed or disaffiliated and who wish to remain in the United Methodist Church. These congregations will act as a resting place for those seeking a new United Methodist faith community, with people who will care for and provide a haven of peace and grace. Please know that the purpose is not to build membership for the designated Lighthouse Congregations; rather, the goal is to offer a safe and caring place for WPA United Methodists to be members while they discern their next steps.
Lighthouse Congregations will:
A number of churches in our conference are currently in the process of becoming Lighthouse Congregations. These churches will be resourced by the Conference so that they are particularly equipped to welcome new people and care for their grief.
It is our goal to officially launch an interactive map with information about each Lighthouse Congregation on May 1, 2023. You can find updated information using the Lighthouse Congregation link on our homepage or by visiting https://www.wpaumc.org/lighthouse-congregations.
Whether you are an individual or a group of people who have become displaced or churchless because of closing or disaffiliation, Lighthouse Congregations will be there for you during this difficult time. As you consider what is next, specific pathways from which you may choose will continue to emerge as the Conference, Districts, and local churches come together to be the connection at its best.
- Provide a welcoming place to belong during this time of grief and transition, which might be for just a season or for a lifetime. This includes a safe space with caring relationships, listening hearts, and unconditional love within a congregation that is confident it is remaining in the UMC.
- Offer ministry opportunities in which to engage – or not. There will be no pressure.
- Organize groups by proactively finding and connecting with individuals and groups displaced by disaffiliating churches.
- Connect individuals or groups with Conference and District resources to help them discern their next steps as they consider a new church home.