Pastors are believers in church-sharing

June 8, 2012
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Church-sharing has become a common occurrence in the city, with several local institutions partaking in the practice.

The Hope Central Church at 85-87 Seaverns Ave. in Jamaica Plain is the result of a sharing arrangement between Hope Church and Central Congregational Church that became a merger in 2010.

The First Baptist Church on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain has shared space with the Pierre Angulaire Baptist Church, a Haitian congregation, for eight years. For First Baptist Pastor Ashlee Wiest-Laird, that’s been a plus.

“I do think it is a positive thing,” said Wiest-Laird. “But it all depends on the particular church and the particular programs. There are a lot of factors that go into the decision.”

Wiest-Laird said the relationship began with the Haitian congregation because the church was new and First Baptist wanted to help support it. The pastor said it’s a good relationship where the two groups do many things together, including yard sales and potlucks.

She said there haven’t been any drawbacks to the arrangement, largely because the two groups have good communication.  Wiest-Laird did say she has heard of other church-sharing arrangements failing. She said in those cases, people feel the church is a home away from home and find it difficult to share.

“We haven’t had that experience,” said Wiest-Laird.

The church also used to share space with a Quaker group from 2006 to 2009, a partnership Wiest-Laird described as “great.”

First Baptist tries to maximize its extra space, renting or allowing community use of it. Starting this fall, the church will be hosting Pine Village, a bilingual preschool that has programs throughout the state, including at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sumner Hill.

Through the Baptist community, Wiest-Laird knows Lorraine Cleaves Anderson, a former JP resident. Anderson, who is the pastor of the International Community Church’s in Allston, an institution that shares its space with seven other churches, recently published a book on the subject called “Under One Steeple.”

“It’s tremendous,” Anderson said about the church-sharing arrangement. “It’s a picture of heaven. We thrive on it. But it doesn’t happen on its own.”

The pastor said the book, which came out in March, is 20 chapters with two to three stories each about her experience with church sharing.

“It’s an easy story to read,” said Anderson. “People like to read stories. I did not set out to write a book. I set out to preserve true stories that have occurred.”

Wiest-Laird said she looks forward to reading the book and added about the International Community Church’s much larger sharing arrangement, “I do think it is great. What I have heard, it’s a wonderful model and it has worked out well.”