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From left, Clyde Mayberry, Donnie Medley, and Robert Clark.
Photo provided by Clyde Mayberry

‘One larger and stronger congregation working together for the Lord’

Two Detroit-area churches merge to form unified, racially diverse congregation.

DETROIT — “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This old African proverb has come to life in Allen Park, a city inside the Detroit metropolitan area.

Cleveland Lindsay Jr. leads a song service at the Allen Park church.

Cleveland Lindsay Jr. leads a song service at the Allen Park church.

The Allen Park Church of Christ and Lemay Avenue Church of Christ in Detroit decided to “go together” for the cause of Christ when they merged in late September.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing because we’ll have enough people to really serve the Lord,” said Donnie Medley, one of Allen Park’s elders. “The community around us will know of the work of the Lord.”

The Allen Park congregation has been in its current location since 1962. The church is long past its heyday, when it had more than 400 members. With the general decline seen by many churches across the U.S., exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance had dwindled to about 60.

The Lemay Avenue congregation was also past its golden years but had begun new growth under the direction of Robert Clark, the church’s minister of eight years. The church had about 40 members before the merger.

“I feel the merger has been blessed by God and creates opportunity for us to serve our communities with Godly love,” Clark said.

Allen Park had two elders, Medley and Clyde Mayberry, who was also the minister. He and Clark are now co-ministers.

“I am delighted we have made this decision,” Mayberry said. “No one cared about White or Black — we’re just Christians who are saved by grace and headed to the same place.”

Members of the two congregations also expressed excitement in anticipation of the merger.

Related: White, Black churches merge in Michigan

“I personally feel very positive about the merger,” said Guyler Turner, a member of Lemay Avenue. “Lord’s will, we will be a model for other congregations who may be considering a similar move in that direction.”

Another Lemay Avenue member, Cutise Boswell, said he looks forward to growing closer to his fellow Christians and growing closer to God alongside them. “It is something beautiful about followers of Christ being able to come together for the cause of Christ,” Boswell said.

From left, Clyde Mayberry, Donnie Medley, and Robert Clark.

From left, Clyde Mayberry, Donnie Medley and Robert Clark.

Anita Flannigan, a member of Allen Park, echoed that sentiment. “I can’t wait to get to know all of our new church family,” she said. “I know we will be giving God the glory when we worship, fellowship and work on ministries together. It will be exciting to hear new ideas and suggestions that we can implement to continue to do God’s work together.”

But for John Bowyer, also from Allen Park, “merger” doesn’t accurately describe the move.

“I have never cared for the term ‘church or congregation merger,’” Bowyer said. “I believe we should worship together as opportunities present themselves wherever it is.

“As I looked around the auditorium and fellowship hall today, I saw new faces with names yet familiar to me. But I also saw people wanting to worship God together and study the Bible together. I look forward to learning their names as we work together.”

Regardless of the term, the new body of Christians, which will retain the Allen Park name, aims to get off to a strong start for the kingdom.

“We were two small but strong congregations,” member Deanna Calleja said, “and we are coming together as one larger and stronger congregation working together for the Lord. It’s encouraging to see all the different talents coming together.”

Filed under: Allen Park Church of Christ black churches Church decline Church merger Closing Churches COVID-19 pandemic Detroit Lemay Avenue Church of Christ Michigan National News racial unity Top Stories Where have all the churches gone

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