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Ministry merger: Oklahoma City pastors, congregations learn to 'dance together'

May Avenue United Methodist Church and Ridgecrest United Methodist Church recently merged to become Cornerstone United Methodist in a one-of-a-kind ministry union.
by Carla Hinton Modified: September 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: September 28, 2013

A broken air-conditioner during a relentlessly hot summer helped bring two northwest Oklahoma City congregations together in a one-of-a-kind merger for the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference.

Of course, the reasons for the union of May Avenue United Methodist Church and Ridgecrest United Methodist Church aren't quite so simple, but the Rev. Diana Pruitt said the defective cooling unit at Ridgecrest provided a creative spark that ultimately led to the blending.

The combined congregations now worship as Cornerstone United Methodist Church. The “uniting Sunday” was May 19, and the new church was consecrated May 26.

Pruitt, who was at Ridgecrest, and the Rev. Steve Brant, at May Avenue, serve as co-pastors — a first for the state Methodist conference.

Among early changes to come out of the merger decision was the choice for the new congregation to move forward in the May Avenue United Methodist building, 2604 N May, instead of in a building not tied to either church.

Another decision involved the name.

“This was truly about creating something new. That's why we chose a new name,” Pruitt said.

Since the merger was first discussed in fall 2012, the clergy leaders said the church members have made other choices: Stained-glass windows, new choir robes and a baby grand piano from Ridgeview will be moved to the Cornerstone building.

Cornerstone will operate a thriving child care center that had been at the May Avenue church for years. Fairly new commercial kitchen appliances will be moved from the Ridgeview building, which is for sale, to Cornerstone to continue the long-running Mobile Meals program run by Ridgeview volunteers.

The pastors said one of their lay leaders likened the process to people learning to dance together.

“Neither of us makes a makes a decision without considering the other, so it is truly a dance,” Brant said of his co-pastor.

Pruitt agreed. “Sometimes we step on toes, but you keep trying,” she said.

Creative solutions

Pruitt, 53, had been pastor of Ridgecrest, 3629 NW 25, for four years when half of the church's air-conditioning unit shut down in the middle of summer 2012.

She said the church members wanted to be good stewards of their resources. Pruitt said she broached the subject of Ridgecrest joining with May Avenue as a way to save money and to combine the best of what both offer the community.

“We just thought a better use of our money would be combining together instead of spending every dime we had on a building,” she said.

She said each church had about 70 to 80 members. Ridgecrest is more than 100 years old, and May Avenue celebrated its 70th anniversary this year.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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