Two Delaware Churches — One White, One Black — Find New Life by Merging

Greenbank Church of Christ in Wilmington, Del. | Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

WILMINGTON, Del. — In its heyday, the 75-year-old Cedars Church of Christ sometimes topped 350 in Sunday attendance.

Many Christians came from the Bible Belt to work for DuPont, the chemical company headquartered in this Mid-Atlantic city.

PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR. Deacon Boyd Reed oversees the audio/visual ministry.

Those workers and their families formed the core of the congregation, which was active in mission works, from the Blue Hens for Christ campus ministry at the University of Delaware to a Bible college built in Ghana.

“When DuPont was moving people in and out of here, the congregation was quite large,” said Boyd Reed, 53, a data analytics architect with the company. “But there were a lot of layoffs with DuPont, and a lot of people left.”

Others retired and returned to hometowns in places such as Texas and Tennessee.

Those changes left an older, mostly white church of 80 to 100 people with an uncertain future. When preacher Brad Carman stepped aside because of a serious health issue, the congregation wasn’t sure it could afford to hire a new minister.

Doug Mattis, one of the Cedars church’s three elders, put it this way: “We were a dying church.”

A seed planted

Enter the First State Church of Christ, a predominantly black congregation in this same Delaware city.

That body of believers started with a group meeting in a home’s basement about 14 years ago. Services later moved to an Elks Lodge. Finally, the church equipped a leased warehouse for worship.

The First State church was full of young families, but its minister, Domingo Reyes, felt its cramped space was hindering growth.

Sue Maynard, pictured with her husband, Ed, at the church food bank in 2013.
PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR. Sue Maynard, pictured with her husband, Ed, at the church food bank in 2013.

Reyes wondered if the Cedars church might be open to a building-sharing program whereby the First State church would pay rent and meet at a different time than the host congregation.

When Reyes stopped by the Cedars church to discuss the possibility, he met Ed Maynard, 77, whose wife, Sue Maynard, 83, organizes the congregation’s thriving food pantry ministry.The pantry serves hundreds of hungry families every Thursday night. It’s the largest such program in Delaware.

“If you meet Ed — from day one, he’s your best friend,” recalled Reyes, 45. “He’s a very social person and pretty much said, ‘We should all just get together.’”

While that didn’t happen immediately, a seed was planted.

At Ed Maynard’s invitation, Reyes and his wife, Crystal, volunteered with the pantry that night.

“We were blessed by it,” Reyes said. “We met with the elders and had a brief conversation, nothing too heavy. We decided to meet and have another conversation at a later time.”

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Source: The Christian Chronicle