One Church's Inspiring Example of Making Amends

With its founding rooted in acrimony, a congregation proves it’s never too late to do the right thing.

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Posted in , Apr 25, 2022

Church congregation praying

During my interim ministry at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Dunedin, Florida, I learned that 100 members had broken away some 55 years ago to start another church in the same community. It wasn’t because they felt there was a need for a new ministry in the area but that the associate pastor at the time was unhappy. He and the group started The Kirk of Dunedin. We can only imagine the hurt, pain, sadness and anger that St. Andrews members felt at this rupture. Over time, the two congregations moved on with their ministries, but the history remained the same until something changed it.  

It began in the summer of 2021 when, unannounced, the present pastor at the Kirk Church arrived at my office at St. Andrews. I wasn’t there so he talked with the office manager. The pastor shared that he felt badly about how his church had started. After his visit, things remained quiet, but God was at work unbeknownst to us.

A few weeks before Holy Week of this year, St. Andrews received a letter from the pastor at the Kirk Church. In going through the process of changing the church’s name (now Coastal Christian Church), they discovered the uncharitable details of their beginnings. The pastor acknowledged that his congregation had never thanked St. Andrews for giving life to his church or apologized for the less than Christ-like manner in which it happened. Although members of the present congregation were not around when their church was founded, they believed these actions would please the Lord.

They then expressed their gratitude toward St. Andrews through three acts of kindness—first, a check was given to St. Andrews to purchase Easter lilies representing the 100 congregants who had left those years ago. The Coastal congregation shared how they prayed that God would bring this number of new congregants to St. Andrews. Secondly, they also gave a check for $1,000 to use in any way to strengthen the congregation. 

Finally, they asked permission to make St. Andrews the “turn around spot” for their Palm Sunday’s Grace and Peace 5K. The day before Palm Sunday they would have around 100 people running, walking or rolling from their church. They would stop at St. Andrews with 100 palms to lay at the church and then offer 100 prayers. On the day of the run, a group from St. Andrews welcomed the members, gave them water bottles and joined in prayer. It was a powerful and transforming day for both congregations. 

Although the birth of the Kirk Church of Dunedin took place many years ago in an upsetting way, God raised a new generation to do the right thing with grace and humility. It’s a lesson we can all take. It’s never too late for a person, group—or church—to apologize and act in a Godly manner.

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