Saying Goodbye to our Downtown Campus

Please read Pastor John's words below from his statement given on May 3rd, 2015 at our Downtown worship service.

This morning I have some difficult news to share with you.  Our Lead Team, staff, and other leaders have been engaged in an on-going conversation about the future and sustainability of this downtown campus here at the Kentucky Theatre.  After many hours of conversation, prayer, and discernment, we have decided that it’s time to close this campus and join up with our brothers and sisters at Epworth.

I imagine this likely comes as a surprise and a shock to some of you.  Others may have sensed this and seen it coming.  I want you to know that this conversation has been going on for a few years.  It has finally come to the point where it is clear that we can’t give the time, energy, passion, and resources necessary to make this campus thrive and grow. 

Our decision to close this campus was not an easy decision.  In fact, it has been painful in many ways.  Our service here at the Kentucky Theatre has meant so much to so many people.  Lives have been transformed in this space.  Pastor Roz, and many others, built something wonderful here.  It has become a place where anyone can feel welcome.  It has become a place of refuge and safety to people who are struggling.  God has done really good things here at the Kentucky Theatre.  

However, as a church we must always be willing to follow where God leads, even if that means ending something that is good.  We don’t want to just do good work, we want to be the best church we can possibly be.  As a church, we must periodically ask ourselves: “Are we trying to do too much?”  We’ve decided, and I agree wholeheartedly, that the answer to that question is yes.

About a year ago right before I became the pastor of Embrace, our church went through a fairly crazy shake-up.  We went from having six staff members to two staff members.  Before I started there were five pastors and now we have one, with Justin Barringer working very part-time as well.  Some of our ministries weren’t able to continue; children’s ministry is one example.  I wish everything could have remained the same, but we have to think a little differently now as a church.  A about a year ago we decided we would do the best we could, and see if keeping this campus open would be possible.

Almost a year later, it has become clear to us that we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done.  We are trying to do too much.  What happens when you try to do too much is that you end up not being the best you can be.  As individuals we often to say no to good things; as a church we must do the same.  We have a large building less than two miles from here that has more than enough size for our congregation.  We realize that we need to simplify and focus, or we will all get burned out and not be effective in our ministry.

There are a few things you need to know:

  1. This does NOT mean we are abandoning the downtown community.  We need to think creatively and figure out how we can best reach the downtown community.  We will need your help to do that.
  2. Epworth, Downtown, the Gathering — it’s all Embrace.  The things that make Embrace an awesome church — you will find those things at Epworth and at the Gathering.  The church isn’t a building; people make up the church.
  3. You will be accepted at Epworth.  No questions asked.  I know that some of you may not like a traditional church building.  It may bring up bad memories of being rejected.  Someone told me recently she can’t handle the stares from people when she goes to church.  We want to do everything we can to make sure you don’t feel that way.  Even though we meet in a traditional church building, we are not a typical church.  We want all of you to join us at Epworth on Sundays.  We will run the bus downtown to pick you up if you want to come.
  4. Our plan is that our last Sunday here will be on May 31st.  Then, the next Sunday, June 7th, we will have a big celebration breakfast to honor all of you at our Epworth Campus.  
  5. During the month of May, we will spend time during our service celebrating what the Theatre has meant to all of us.  We will also may need to grieve the loss of something good.
  6. Finally, on May 24th at 9am we will have a meeting in in the lobby of the Theatre for anyone who wants to ask questions and talk through what the next few months will look like.  Justin will come down, Brian will be there, and we will just have a conversation about all of this.  Hopefully we can also dream together about how we can best reach the downtown community.

It’s okay to be mad.  It’s okay to feel relieved.  It’s okay to be sad.  When you lose something important to you, you feel all sorts of emotions.  I want all of you to prayerfully consider sticking with us and joining us at Epworth.  I am confident that this is the right decision.  I am also confident that our church will continue to thrive and be a welcoming place for all people.