Sunday Symposium moves to Berger during East Rec remodel
Jackie Ryan and Marty Thompson
A clash over a Sunday morning meeting place and time resulted in the Oakmont Community Church vacating the Berger Center temporarily to make its large space available to the Oakmont Sunday Symposium.
An extensive remodel of the symposium’s longtime home, the East Recreation Center, is starting this month. That is displacing 22 Oakmont groups through early January.
A proposal for the two to share the Berger, with the church moving its 10:30 a.m. starting time earlier, or moving to the smaller West Recreation Center during the remodeling, and for the symposium to meet in the Berger later than it’s 10:30 a.m. start did not work for either group. The symposium initially had said it would cancel its season.
After a two-and-a-half-hour special meeting Aug. 15, where people on both sides spoke, the Oakmont Village Association (OVA) Board voted unanimously to let the symposium have the 10:30 a.m. slot at the Berger when its fall season opens after Labor Day.
The church is being offered the large card-playing room at the Central Activities Center.
“We will do everything possible at the OVA and in the community” to support the church as it relocates, Director Greg Goodwin said.
“We had wanted the parties to come together for a decision. It hasn’t happened,” President Steve Spanier said.
Issues informing the board decision included meeting time and attendance numbers. Pastor Brinda Peterson said the church averages 55 worshipers. Symposium President Mark Randol said symposium averages 111 participants and exceeded 150 five times in the last year.
Peterson said the starting time was key for the church.
Only the Berger can accommodate the symposium. OVA lists the West Rec capacity at 60, the East Rec at 100, and the Berger at 250.
Efforts to adjust the start times so the two could share Berger failed, with the church saying it couldn’t accommodate a 9 a.m. service and the symposium saying it couldn’t get speakers to come later.
Peterson said the church has staff and musicians who would have to rehearse at 7:30 a.m.
“We’ve been made to look like bullies and at this point you know what’s right, legal and ethical,” Peterson said. The church sent the board a seven-page letter from its lawyer, which several board members took as warning of possible legal action.
“We never did [threaten to sue],” Peterson said. The letter was not read at the meeting, but Director Al Medeiros said he did not take its content to be “benign.” Director Marianne Neufeld said she took offense at the letter.
The church has met rent-free in the Berger for 50 years.
Virginia Katz, a former symposium board member, termed the need for the Berger space “make or break” for the symposium. The symposium was faced with canceling more than 20 speakers already lined up for its new season starting after Labor Day.
The symposium is “a signature event that helps define Oakmont,” said George McKinney, the symposium’s vice president.
“The symposium has given rich programs for 25 years to people in Oakmont,” Katz said. The two groups will return to their regular spaces after the remodeling is complete.
“I knew from the start we were going to lose,” Peterson said after the meeting. “The Lord is going to provide.”
The church will face a new space issue in a few years when the Berger Center is expected to close for a major remodeling or replacement.