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Conference assistance helps Everett UCC rejuvenate

In the spring of 2007, the pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Everett left, funding was low, endowments were down, membership was under 100, grounds were neglected, morale was low and there was little relationship with the Pacific Northwest Conference (PNC).

Cliff Benson
Cliff Benson worked more than 100 to complete ramp to make chancel accessible.

“The congregation was discouraged, but three clergy members and lay persons took leadership and kept us functioning,” said Mimi Lane, who served on a committee that formed.

Interviewed just before the Rally Day Sunday, when the church dedicated a wheelchair and walker ramp to the chancel, a handrail to the chancel, an upgraded sound system and a sign with the church’s new name, Everett United Church of Christ, she could hardly contain her excitement.

In 2007, the moderator, Sharon Gunnerson, contacted Mark Miller, interim conference minister.  Stephen Hanning, who had retired from a Park Forest, Ill., UCC church and served nine months as interim at Ferndale UCC came as interim.  The church also learned that the PNC Church Development Committee (CDC) offers funds, information and guidance to help churches rejuvenate.  Paul Forman, Jim CastroLang and Don Hanson from the CDC consulted and visited.

The church formed a committee with the moderator, pastor, three lay persons and two retired clergy.  Their survey on the congregation’s needs and desires drew a 70 percent return.

Results showed that underlying the congregation’s sadness, mistrust and lack of communication were sparks of interest and hope.  The committee kept the congregation informed through the newsletter, mission moments and congregational meetings.

“Our motto was ‘communicate, communicate, communicate,’” Lane said.

Everett children's story
Children and young-at-heart hear children's story.

Three needs emerged to help turn around the decline in membership:  1) upgrade the church’s sound system; 2) replace the computer system and 3) upgrade the website.

A local marketing professional helped members emphasize strengths and increase visibility.

Expecting to call a half-time settled minister, the church made a request to the CDC.

Then the church’s income changed, some younger members of the Ukrainian Congregation that rented the building for several years began harassing GBLTIQ and other members, Lane said.

Despite good relationships with older Ukrainian members, who understood persecution, the UCC church decided in 2009 not to renew the Ukrainian church’s lease, even though it would lose $2,250 a month.  Since then, they raised pledges, received CDC help and had a gift from a sister church.

The pastoral search was put on hold and Hanning agreed to continue.

“We also worked to improve the church’s structure and asked people to serve on committees.  We tightened our belts and increased members.  Now the church has a positive, can-do spirit,” he said.  “When we meet an obstacle, we find a way to deal with it.”

The first year, the CDC gave $9,500 for a computer, software and business cards for members to give to people.

Lane said the cards had space for members to put their names or information about an event.  On the back is the church’s mission statement.

The church welcomed 16 new members between spring 2009 and 2010, gained 23 percent in pledging units and 16 percent in pledge amounts.

The church’s Thursday Dinner Bell Outreach for homeless and low-income families grew from serving 20 to serving between 40 and 60.  It’s food pantry open the last two weeks of each month Monday through Thursday aids 50.

It provides space for HIV testing, Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Gender Alliance, Everett Mountaineers, Sno Globe and PFLAG meetings.

The Annual Spring Auction brought in $6,000 in 2010.  Richmond Beach Congregational UCC shared half the proceeds from their spring concert.

The church has embraced a mission of environmental sustainability, involved with Transition Part Gardner and Green Everett monthly potlucks and educational movies.

New Sign
New sign at Everett UCC

“The church now has hope,” says their May 2010 report to the Church Development Committee.  “People ask questions.  They agree and disagree, and they know they are heard.”

The church requested a second-year CDC grant of $6,070 to make the chancel accessible to people in wheelchairs, using walkers, or with hip or knee problems. Now they can come on the chancel to read, preach, serve communion and sing in the choir.  The 2010 grant also includes new signs, stationery and envelopes with the new name, plus microphones and a mixer. 

Lane is excited about new people coming and staying, forming a diverse congregation with older, younger (aged three to 96) and some young families, GLBTIQ and some racial diversity.

“We’re no longer a discouraged church because we reconnected with the conference,” she said.

For information, call 425-252-7224 or email or visit

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © September-October 2010





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