Saving Grace

Church loses leaders, financial footing, but vows to rebound
Nov. 09, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

With two pastors having departed and the church facing the "financial woes typical of many businesses" in a down economy, leaders of Grace Chapel Church said they are committed to refocusing and moving forward.

Long-time pastor Rudy Holland resigned as the pastor of Grace Chapel Church during last week's Sunday service. He said it was his decision to retire and it's what was best for this church and his family.

"I just thought it was time for the church and me to make a change," Holland said, who served as the senior pastor for 15 years. "... I felt it was time for me to step aside."

His wife, Dorris, is facing some health problems, he said, adding it was time he retired at 67.

Youth and Associate Pastor Joel Murr will be filling the pulpit as the church searches for its new senior pastor, according to a written statement provided by Murr and Grace Christian School Headmaster Bill Carver Thursday. Whenever there is a change in leadership of a ministry, there are going to be people who are hurt or don't understand why things are changing, Murr said.

"What I have been asked to do, to fill the pulpit, is to put my arms around everybody and try to see that our church is united and moving forward," he said. "And that is how I look at it, at why God has put me here for such a time as this."

Carver will continue his duties as headmaster, but he'll also serve as operational manager for Grace Chapel Ministry.

The church has struggled financially, Murr said, ever since the economic downturn in 2007, coinciding with construction of the church's new facility — built after a 2004 fire.

When the church moved into the new building in 2007, "We projected a certain amount of growth as far as numerically, people, which also projects you bring in more with tithes and offerings," Murr said. "Unfortunately, in 2007, when we came into this building, ... the economy tanked."

According to documents provided by the church officials, the new facility added an additional 44,000 square feet of space including an auditorium, 13 classrooms, a media center, music wing and administration space for the church and school.

Since that time, church leaders have done everything possible to move forward, Murr said.

"It's not something that has happened this month, or this year," he said. "It's something that, we found out, thousands and thousands of churches and businesses have gone through — the same type of problems."

Murr and Carver said it is business as usual for Grace Christian School and the Grace Christian Child Development Center.

There is a board of church trustees and deacons that is tasked with looking at the available resources and determining the priorities moving forward, he said. 

As a cost-saving measure, Carver and Murr said Grace Executive Pastor Tim Murr, Joel Murr's brother, was "relieved of his duties."

"A lot of our money is spent on salaries," Carver said. "When you are trying to economize, you have to cut down on some staff. It was just prudent that we ask him to leave, which was not something we wanted to do. After all, here's a guy who has been here for 14 years, and we love him. It breaks your heart."

A meeting was held Sunday to discuss the financial troubles of the church with the general church population — a meeting that Carver called "awesome."

"People stepped up and said, 'We love our church, and we are going to do what is necessary to get us back to where we need to be,'" he said. "There are two words that we are making sure continue. One is transparency, and the other one is integrity."

There has been an increase in giving among church members this week, Murr said.   

"The one thing that needs to be expressed is that this church is moving forward, and, obviously, we have to make some changes in areas of ministry like Mr. Carver coming up and helping over(see) the operations and me stepping in to fill the pulpit, and other changes that have been made or will be made," he said. "But we are committed to seeing God do some awesome things in our church and through this ministry of Grace Chapel."