Photo: Mark Smith and Patty Burns, the pastor and associate pastor, respectively, of the new Cornerstone Assembly of God, shake hands Tuesday in The Times-Gazette offices.
By Jeff Gilliland – firstname.lastname@example.org
It was God’s work, both pastors say, that led two Hillsboro churches, one with white members and a white pastor and the other with mixed-race members and a black pastor, to merge last month.
“We both felt the Lord kind of laid it upon our churches and our ministries’ hearts,” said Mark W. Smith, pastor of the Cornerstone Assembly of God that accepted the members of Resurrected Truth Ministries into its congregation on Jan. 17. “I approached pastor (Patty) Burns for them to consider it, they accepted, and we brought Patty on as paid associate pastor.”
Prior to the merger the two congregations met about a half mile apart on SR 73 just north of Hillsboro. Smith said Cornerstone had about 65 members and Resurrected had 30 to 35 members.
Burns said she had been pastoring at Resurrected for seven years with little help and that the request from Cornerstone to merge was like an answered prayer.
“A few years back it was ministered to me that I’d know what church to connect with at the right time; and I did,” Burns said. “I saw it as an answer to a prayer where God was doing a new thing for us in that area. The church was in 100 percent agreement. It just all comes together as a God thing. I do believe it was meant to be.
“I just saw a great love and compassion and desire to do the will of God, and whatever that is, they were willing to do it. We couldn’t have been more well received.”
Finances were not a factor in the decision to merge, both pastors said. Smith said it was mainly just prayer and a belief in the Holy Spirit, and that God laid it upon his heart to reach out.
“It was just in my heart. I think the Lord placed it there. And after thinking about it I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Neither of us had ever heard of it. Sometimes churches merge out of necessity, but this was more for our mutual goal of common good for Christ.”
Both pastors say the merger could not have gone smoother. They both have an office now in the Cornerstone building and they said the plan is for Smith to preach about 60 percent of the time and Burns the other 40 percent. Burns said that works because more members of the new church are from the former Cornerstone church.
Now that they have merged, the pastors said they hope to strengthen their bond, emphasize prayer, and reach out to their community.
“We want to be a place where people can be part of a family and deepen their understanding of God … so when we stand before the Lord our lives will have counted for something,” Smith said.
The church has Sunday school at 9 a.m., worship at 10:15 a.m. and Bible study and a youth service at 6 p.m. on Sundays. It has a prayer service at 11 a.m. Tuesday and Bible study at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Burns said it is her hope that her former congregation will not only be a blessing to Cornerstone, “but also to our community to show we can come together to accomplish our goals in Christ.”
Smith said the new Cornerstone is open to all denominations that lift up Jesus Christ. He said Cornerstone has not ruled out mergers with other groups that are struggling financially or otherwise.
“We feel like there’s a divine plan that may exceed even what we can imagine,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a whole new concept about what church is all about.”
For more information the church can be reached at 937-393-5188.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.