Although the work began almost a year ago, the final vote to merge Lovers Lane United Methodist Church and Walnut Hill United Methodist Church happened in June, and relatively quietly thanks to a pandemic that was still spurring most churches to do their preaching online.
Both churches have served as theological anchors for their neighborhoods for years. Lovers Lane, sitting from its perch at Northwest Highway and Inwood Road, is also home to Wesley Prep, a private elementary school, and offers a variety of ministries, including a robust Deaf ministry and a Zimbabwean fellowship.
Walnut Hill, which is home to the popular Creative School preschool, has supported its community for years as well. It took a direct hit from the October tornado, and has been working ever since to repair the damage and renovate.
According to both churches, Walnut Hill had been seeing a decline in membership and donations for a few years. A consultant suggested last fall that the church consider an adoption merger with the larger Lovers Lane church, and work began in earnest in January. The merger became final at a June church conference.
““These two wonderful congregations have voted nearly unanimously in their respective decision making meetings (Charge/Church Conferences) for an adoption merger between Walnut Hill UMC and Lovers Lane UMC,” Lovers Lane United Methodist Church senior pastor Stan Copeland announced. “They will now be one congregation meeting on two campus with distinctive, transformative, disciple making ministry in both places.”
Several options were explored, but the adoption merger won out because it allows both congregations to work together, combining not only membership and ministry, but also assets and financial resources.
The merger will allow Walnut Hill to adopt the children’s ministry and youth ministry models that Lovers Lane has found successful in attracting families. It will also allow the church to grow its traditional service, while still offering contemporary services through Lovers Lane.
“As WHC, we will continue to celebrate with traditional worship and enjoy autonomy with our adult Sunday School Classes,” wrote church membership secretary Cathy Bell in a recent newsletter. “ At the same time, we will have access to LLUMC resources for our children and youth, with the opportunity to have new programming. We’ll also have access to small groups and classes for adults.”
And while Lovers Lane will also take over the Creative School, there are no plans to fold it into Wesley Prep, or to close it.
Walnut Hill will also have its own board of directors, led by John Ozmun and Don Moulton, and including Russell Alexander, Susan Attel, Judy Smith, Rosie Taylor, Melissa Stallings, Jackie Anglin, Ron Rains, and Mary Larsen Sly, as well as Rev. Scott Luginbill and Rev. Andy Nelms as nonvoting members.
“There will be lots of learning ahead and perhaps some growing pains, but I sense a measure of excitement in the air as we come to know one another celebrating and pursuing life, mission and vision together,” Copeland said. “May God bless all of our holy pursuits.”