Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

A Unique Congregation

By Sutton Smith

All congregations are unique, but Cornerstone Community Church feels especially unique—it is a blended family. In 2016, three United Methodist churches merged to create Cornerstone. The merger brought strangers from Norwalk and its neighboring towns together in the building that was formerly Norwalk United Methodist Church to create an entirely new congregation. 

Today, Cornerstone’s Sunday morning service is in both Spanish and English, led by Rev. Rubén Rivera-Martinez. Hailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Pastor Rubén has continued to shepherd Cornerstone as a welcoming congregation for all people. Immigrant families from six nations call Cornerstone home. Cornerstone’s diversity has created a culture of hospitality and mutual learning from one another in the congregation. 

Over the past several weeks, I have had the pleasure of getting to know members of Cornerstone’s Reimagining Church working group: Neliann, Pat, Lyra, Lydia, and Jay. This group of five embodies Cornerstone’s culture of hospitality and diversity. They are intergenerational, ranging in ages from a high-schooler to a grandmother. One individual runs the praise band; one leads the youth group; another is planning the church’s annual Thanksgiving Lunch. One individual has been a member of one of the (pre-merger) congregations since the 1980s; another came to Cornerstone just last year. They came from different churches before the merger that created Cornerstone, meaning that most of them have only been in each other’s lives for a few years. They each bring passions for different aspects of church life: children’s ministry, Sunday worship, community service, discipleship. 

Despite the reality that Cornerstone is a relatively recent “blended family,” there is no lack of warmth and love in the congregation. There is a palpable desire for deep relationships, authentic worship, and dedicated discipleship. But like so many churches, Cornerstone is finding itself in a “liminal season,” in the words of church consultant Susan Beaumont. In the years of transition and now in the post-Covid world, questions abound: What is the role of Cornerstone Community Church in the broader Norwalk community? What ministries will Cornerstone prioritize moving forward? How do three individual churches create a new identity while holding true to original values? How does Cornerstone fit into the United Methodist denomination? I am confident that over the next few months, the working group will delve into these questions and maybe—just maybe—find some answers. 

Image |  Diana H on Unsplash