For many Disciples in the Ohio region, the name Broad Street Christian Church in Columbus was synonymous with their regional cathedral. Through its history, Broad Street supported new congregations, inspired eight young men and women to ministry, extended hospitality to all people, and sponsored the first Alcoholics Anonymous group in the Columbus area. Broad Street was a mission-minded congregation. That was their legacy until rising maintenance and utility costs—joined with a declining membership—reduced their ability to live out that legacy.
The departure of their last full-time pastor in 2007 resulted in a decline in worship attendance and participation for these cherished outreach ministries. For the next two years the church used a part-time interim pastor and supply speakers. This permitted them to save enough money to call an intentional interim to help lead them toward a renewal.
The Rev. John Shearer arrived in early 2009 with the hope of helping this grand congregation re-envision its mission and to focus on the future. He led them in small group studies of the book, “Listening to God in Times of Change.” The sessions were useful, but not as they had expected. These discussions helped to prepare them, as the former president of the congregation, Sean Becker, said, “…to focus on the task that would soon be at hand—closing the doors of a beloved place of worship.”
Sean and his wife, Elizabeth Jewell Becker, attended a Christian Church Foundation workshop about legacy congregations at the General Assembly in July 2009. They picked up a copy of the Foundation booklet, “Sacred Stories,” and spoke with others who were in similar congregational situations. The Beckers said, “Hearing their stories and sharing ours gave us strength and courage we needed at just the right time.”
Upon returning to Broad Street, the Beckers shared the stories of these congregations. Congregation leaders contacted their regional minister, who helped them form task teams to investigate options. It became clear that their best option was to close their visible ministry and to look at a new mission: the Broad Street Church Legacy Fund with the Christian Church Foundation. Through this Legacy Fund, Broad Street could continue to support outreach ministries into the future that were in keeping with their historical legacy.
One task team was charged with the responsibility of investigating a Legacy Fund. Working with the Christian Church Foundation, they polled the congregation for appropriate ministries to become beneficiaries of their Legacy Fund. This process allowed them to discuss the valuable missions that Broad Street had supported over their 120-year history. From those discussions, the congregation voted to choose five ministries as beneficiaries: Camp Christian of the Ohio Region, Southside Community Ministries (a community food bank), Amethyst Incorporated (an addiction program for women in the Columbus area), Reconciliation Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Cleveland Christian Home.
The closing worship service on Dec, 27, 2009, was a glorious affirmation of God’s blessings through the Broad Street Christian Church. The sanctuary was packed with former members, former pastors, regional staff, representatives from the general church and many friends of the church. There were tears of sadness at the closing of this great church’s visible ministry, but also tears of joy that the building was going to serve as the church home for a growing Ethiopian Orthodox Church and that the proceeds from the building sale would fund the Broad Street Christian Church Legacy Fund.
Working with God’s guidance and led by their faithful legacy, the Broad Street congregation released its beloved building to be the new home of another Christian congregation. Through Broad Street Christian Church’s Legacy Fund at the Foundation this cathedral Columbus Church can, in Sean and Elizabeth’s words, “…once again give to the greater mission of the church.”