Four Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations in Iowa have opted to become a single parish, citing in local media the improved ability to carry out missions and ministry.
St. Luke Lutheran Church of Nora Springs, Rock Creek Lutheran Church, and St. John's Lutheran Church of rural Osage; and Faith Lutheran Church, Mitchell formed Cross Roads Lutheran Parish earlier this year.
The four congregations opted to become one parish in January and the process was officially started on April 16. The Revs. John Gannett and Joel Dahlen serve as the two part-time interim pastors for the four congregations.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Dahlen explained that with the creation of the parish, the four congregations remained autonomous but nevertheless held closer ties.
"Each church is individual. They are autonomous. They basically work together now. For instance, they hire pastors together," said Dahlen.
"We have a choir together as well. Called the Cross Roads Singers, and they started even before the Cross Roads started officially."
Dahlen also explained that although the creation of Cross Roads Parish came in April, the churches are still finalizing certain details of the new relationship, including the hiring of permanent pastors.
"We're still getting the foundational stuff set up," said Dahlen, who noted as an example the setting up of the computer system ICON CMO for the parish. "We have looked at all four congregations, redoing their constitutions so that they are up to date with the ECLA's Synod guidelines."
Dahlen explained the call process for pastors in ELCA, which included a pastor putting their name in any of the ELCA synods, with the bishops of each synod looking to find the pastor who best fits the profile preferred by a congregation or parish.
"The call committee here is made up of two members from each congregation and so then they will interview, they'll get the pastor's profile," said Dahlen. "The parish can say yes or no. If they say yes, then the pastor has a right to say yes or no as well."
The Rev. Gannett, the other interim pastor, told The Christian Post that he and Dahlen got their positions due to their work in "interim ministry" for the Northeastern Iowa Synod.
"And so, the call is responsible to both the congregations I contract with and to the Synod Council," said Gannett, who had worked with the congregation of St. Luke Lutheran of Nora Springs in the past.
"What they have been doing, they have all been revising their constitutions so that they are consistent with each other and they have been working on a joint stewardship program."
Gannett noted that they were working on things like insurance "and the arrangements made for insuring pastoral expenses and so forth."
Gannett also told CP that the four churches were going to have celebratory event next Sunday, which would include a "special worship" and other festivities.
"We're inviting everyone to come to the larger church over at Rock Creek and we'll be taking a commemorative picture of everyone who comes and we will have someone from the bishop's office and there is a free dinner for everyone," said Gannett.
"We have an extraordinary group of leaders in these congregations, better than I have seen in all my years of ministry."