On July 1, 1984, the Pioneer and South Amboy UB churches officially merged. It was the start of today’s Lake View church in Camden, Mich.
Bruce Strine, a UB preacher’s kid and 1977 Huntington College graduate, was assigned in July 1983 to his first pastorate: a circuit which included Pioneer and South Amboy, located six miles apart—one in northern Ohio, one in southern Michigan. Each averaged about 30 people.
Strine favored merging the two churches. It made good sense. However, he wrote, “Most of my parishioners considered merging a closed subject. It had been tried before, and many felt it should never be tried again.”
In February 1984, Strine met jointly with the two administrative boards and presented their options. Basically, they could continue struggling along as separate congregations, or they could join forces and, hopefully, become a strong, growing church. Strine, of course, recommended that they merge. And he had drawn up a four-phase proposal to make it happen.
Strine gave them three weeks to consider the matter. On March 13, 1984, each administrative board agreed. In one church, it was a 7-6 vote. But in the days and weeks ahead, people who had voted nay began to support it.
The two churches merged on July 1, and on August 15, a nearby UB church named Grace Chapel joined the merger. Three men from Grace Chapel were added to the steering committee, making it a group of ten, and Strine and George Kreger, Grace Chapel’s pastor, shared the title “co-pastor.” Strine noted that having three churches made it harder to draw up sides.
On January 1, 1985, the three churches began meeting at a neutral site. This moved everyone out of their buildings and cut all ties. All properties were sold.
On Easter Sunday—April 7, 1985—they broke ground for the new Lake View UB church in Camden, Mich. They had selected a central location—two miles from one church, four from another, and about eight miles from Grace Chapel. Six months later, they held their first service in the new facility, which seated 250-300.
Lake View, once three struggling congregations, quickly became one of the largest United Brethren churches Michigan.