Matt Claridge

Pastor Matt Claridge presides over the newly formed Redeemer Baptist Church in Grangeville.

GRANGEVILLE – Less of a merger and more of a marriage: Two area Baptist churches, Mt. Idaho and Mountain Shadows, came together recently to become one. The combined 50-member congregation now meets under a new name: Redeemer Baptist Church.

“We felt both churches needed to become one new church,” said Pastor Matt Claridge. “It wasn’t one church absorbing the other. Neither church has a privileged position or platform. Both churches had to give up their own lives to start a new life together.”

The merger was voted on and approved by both church bodies in early November. Members will now meet as one body at the former Mountain Shadows Baptist Church building at 215 North C Street, behind Syringa Hospital. No decision has been made on what to do with the Mt. Idaho church building, according to Claridge, one of the assets to be reviewed and determinations made upon as the new body goes from here.

“Our first priority is let’s come together as one new body and be invested in this together,” he said, “and together, we can make decisions on what we want to do.”

The move toward merger started in summer 2018 when Mountain Shadows Pastor Vic CIine was called to a new ministry, according to Claridge. Cline and the leadership contacted him to fill in at their pulpit, with the discussion leading to perhaps serving as pastor at both churches. The two bodies took the next six months to see how this worked and also whether they would grow closer together.

“We found out, delightfully, we got along really well. We really enjoy each other’s fellowship,” he said. “No grievances, old friendships were rekindled, folks were getting along really well, so we thought this was a possibility and started to think about coming together.”

A committee made from both churches was formed to look into the details and what the goals would be, and a once a month joint worship service was held.

“We wanted to view this as a marriage; two different personalities, separate assets coming together to form a new life,” Claridge said. “We wanted to ask ourselves the question I think any Christian couple needs to ask: ‘Can you serve Christ better together than apart?’ All around, that answer was yes in both churches. So, we started that process.”

One factor that made the merger a “no-brainer,” he said, was both churches are Southern Baptist, so they have the same denominational identity and doctrinal standards.

Another factor that led to the ease of the merger was the two communities are neighbors and interact with each other. Claridge clarified the merger doesn’t mean the church is “pulling up stakes in Mt. Idaho. I still live out there. Some of the other members still live out there. We’re still committed to the welfare of that community and loving our neighbors. We’re just combining resources. Anything we can do apart we can do better together. That was part of the whole thinking process we went through.”

Claridge said the merger won’t be replacing the past of these churches, but adopting this heritage and taking it into the future. The congregations want to continue a Baptist work in these communities, and if they remained separate, it was questionable that could be maintained.

“We also want this to be a testimony to the community that, wow, here are two churches coming together and getting along,” he said. “That we love Jesus together, that’s the main thing, we hope that’s encouraging to our community that we can make this work.”

Redeemer Baptist has Sunday evening service at 6:30, Wednesday night prayer meeting at 6:30, a men’s breakfast the second Saturday of the month, and women’s Bible studies. For information: 208-983-7699 or redeemergrangeville.org.

Claridge has lived in Mt. Idaho for eight years. He received his master’s of divinity at Trinity International Divinity School in Chicago, and a master’s degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He and his wife, Cassandra, have four children.

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