When Emmanuel United Reformed Church (EURC) in Hanford, CA, held its last worship services on November 27, 2011, its doors closed on a hopeful note. In God’s providence, the husband of a member made profession of faith on that final Sunday.
“We’re grateful that the gospel ministry of EURC has not been in vain,” writes Rev. Brad Lenzner, Emmanuel’s pastor, “this is one very tangible evidence of that. It may seem odd that someone became a member of our church on the last Sunday of our existence but, at the end of the day, it is a beautiful event in the life of our church.”
Rev. Lenzner preached his morning sermon from Hebrews 10:19-25, “Holding Fast the Confession of Our Hope.” He reminded the congregation of the Good News that believers have a High Priest over the House of God (the church) despite the closing of their local congregation. He also encouraged them to continue confessing their hope in Christ and assembling together in another “true, visible manifestation of Christ’s church.”
His evening sermon, from 1 Peter 5:10-11 on being “Preserved for Glory,” finished the congregation’s study of the Canons of Dort by focusing on the perseverance of the saints.
Regular Christian Renewal readers may recall that Emmanuel’s struggles as a small church intensified over the last few years due to economic downturns, primarily in the dairy industry. Several families were lost to relocation and military reassignment.
After an unsuccessful church plant effort in 2002, the group reorganized under the supervision of Ripon’s Zion URC in 2003 and became an organized URCNA congregation in 2005. Rev. Jason Tuinstra served as its initial pastor.
After growing to about 30 families in 2007, the membership had decreased to only about 14 families by the time Rev. Tuinstra accepted a call to Bethel URC in Jenison in 2009.
Rev. Lenzner began preaching periodically in Hanford from September of 2009 until January of 2010. In January, he provisionally accepted the church’s call, subject to sustaining his ordination exam. He ministered to the congregation by performing graveside and memorial services for one of its members on March 11 & 12, 2010. He was ordained at EURC on March 19. He began his formal ministry in the church on March 21, 2010, knowing that the church’s future was precarious.
“The church was already in a tenuous situation before they called me to be their minister,” he says. “But the congregation was very warm and desirous of reaching the lost in Hanford. Everyone understood that the church might not survive if the Lord didn’t bring new members to us. But we all went for it anyway desirous to see what the Lord might do.”
Sufficient membership growth did not occur over the subsequent months and EURC’s council made the difficult decision to disband. At the October, 2011, meeting of Classis Pacific Northwest, elders from EURC informed the brothers of their decision to disband before the end of 2011.
The November date for the church’s final worship service was determined after Rev. Lenzner’s wife, Samantha, obtained a nursing position in theSan Diegoarea and was scheduled to begin employment on November 15. Rev. Lenzner had located a place for them to live in the San Diego area, a place they chose in order to be near family.
Most memberships in the congregation are being transferred to Trinity URC inVisalia, CA, about 30 minutes from Hanford. Some funds were set aside for Rev. Lenzner’s severance; other monies will pay remaining bills for utilities and repairs. Many donated items are being returned. Since the church building and small parsonage were rented.
Two elders and two deacons serve on the EURC council: Elder Charlie VanderKooi, Elder Bob Prys, Deacon Cor Hofmans, and Deacon Mike Hofmans. They sent a letter to URCNA congregations, informing them of Rev. Lenzner’s availability for call and recommending him to the churches. Rev. Lenzner also is available for occasional pulpit supply, filling a vacant pulpit, or planting a church. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 559-836-1505.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 28-29 of the December 28, 2011, issue of Christian Renewal.