Pastoral Update on the Highrock Network

 

Please read this important update about the future of the network from the lead pastors of all the Highrock Churches and the executive board of the Highrock Network. We will be discussing the implications of this announcement for Highrock Acton at our congregational meeting after service Sunday, March 13th:

 

March 2022

Dear Highrock Churches,

Today we want to share an important change regarding the future of the Highrock Network and our shared life together. Nothing is changing immediately, but we want to share the direction we are discerning for the future.

Highrock’s mission is “to create communities that encourage questions & inspire each other to love like Jesus.” “Communities” is deliberately plural in our mission, because rather than restrict ourselves to one population or place, we want to create many different communities that can serve many different people.

For that reason, a number of years ago, we formed the “Highrock Network of Churches” to help our family of churches effectively birth new local congregations. In addition to an early infusion of finances, a new church would inherit Highrock culture and resources, including our name and “brand recognition” that would help them get established in their new neighborhoods more quickly. And we would all stay in close relationship to offer ongoing support.

Over the past few years, we’ve celebrated the emergence of many congregations throughout greater Boston while also encountering unanticipated developments.

First, as all our churches mature, they naturally and increasingly individuate by discerning their distinctive identity and calling. The Highrock Network was designed to incubate infants, and has done that well, but now the constraint of sharing one brand is interfering with our ability to continue maturing and contextualizing in our diverse locations, and respond to the unique ways the Spirit is leading us. Within our network, we’ve seen the emergence of multi-campus, digital, and parish models of community. The result is that our shared name, but increasingly diverse approaches to ministry and theology, now creates inconsistency about what someone should expect at a “Highrock Church”. The shared structures of the Highrock Network that have offered much-needed stability are now inhibiting new creativity.

Second, the Network’s primary mission was church planting. However, the church planting landscape has changed significantly over the past five years as denominations make new discoveries about what works and doesn’t, as the digital revolution introduces new modalities of ministry, and as denominational funding for church planting has become less abundant. These have combined to make our Network’s approach to church-planting less effective in our current environment and our shared mandate less clear.

In light of these developments, we have identified together that it is time to update our structures to reflect the realities of our current needs.

Over the next year or two, the Highrock congregations in Acton, Brookline, Haverhill, Malden, North Shore, and Quincy, which already have independent finances and leadership, will each discern a new name that reflects their unique calling and story, even while the Highrock mission and values remain in their DNA. This process of discernment and transition will look different for each congregation. Meanwhile, the sister campuses - Arlington, Cambridge, Lexington, MetroWest, & Online - will continue operating as one church under the Highrock name. Although we will no longer share a “brand”, we will continue to share resources and relationships. Therefore, in this process we will assess the unique circumstances of each congregation to discern what ongoing needs they may have. During this transition, the remaining personnel and financial resources of the Highrock Network will be devoted to supporting the independent churches in the process of rebranding.

We’ve all become so accustomed to church splits and church scandals that people may assume that there must be some dark secrets or angry divisions behind this transition. You won’t find those here. This was a decision reached cooperatively as we all discerned that it was time to change our structures to reflect our current needs. Accordingly, as each church discerns their new name, we plan to all celebrate what God has done so far and the new things God will do next.

That said, most changes in a family system bring mixed emotions. There is grief that the relationship is changing, combined with excitement about seeing new possibilities and dreams realized. Like all of us, you may feel a mix of emotions. We encourage you to engage the opportunities your local pastor will provide to process the implications of this transition for your congregation.

In 2008 we coined the phrase “independent but in love” to describe the relationships between churches we hoped for among our churches. That will be fully realized as we officially move toward truly independent churches that are bound not by branding, budgets, and by-laws, but by mutual love.

With Affection,

The Lead Pastors & Executive Board of the Highrock Network

Becky Manseau Barnett, Co-lead Pastor, Highrock Acton

Will Barnett, Co-lead Pastor, Highrock Acton & Interim Director, Highrock Network

Glen Comiso, Executive Board Member, Highrock Network

Zeb Egbert, Executive Board Member, Highrock Network

Kat Hampson, Lead Pastor, Highrock Brookline

Brynn Harrington, Lead Pastor, Highrock North Shore

Joseph Lee, Chair, Highrock Network

Edwin Menon, Lead Pastor, Highrock Malden

Stephen Sharkey, Lead Pastor, Highrock Quincy

Dave Swaim, Senior Pastor, Highrock Church & President, Highrock Network

Matt Webel, Lead Pastor, Highrock Haverhill