Competition for Sunday morning space at the Berger Goes to OVA Board

Competition for Sundays at Berger Goes to OVA Board

Marty Thompson

Impending closure of the East Recreation Center has given rise to a conflict between the Sunday Symposium and Community Church for the Berger Center 10:30 a.m. Sunday time slot.

The Symposium, which draws more than twice the number of people than the church, had sought to dislodge the church from the time slot in the only Oakmont space large enough to accommodate its audience.

Both said changing their start times would pose problems. The church rejected a suggestion it move temporarily to the West Recreation Center.

The OVA Board will consider the scheduling issue at a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the East Rec Center.

Work is due to begin shortly on a project that will close the East Rec for at least six months, forcing relocation of the 22 groups regularly using it.

Proposals discussed would have one organization begin earlier in the day at the Berger, and the other later.

They said changing start times would pose problems for the church’s support staff and congregation and for the symposium with scheduling speakers and an audience accustomed to the mid-morning time.

Mark Randol, president of the symposium, said speakers who come from outside Oakmont “will not commit to a later start time,” and volunteers and audience members would have problems with a later start.

After failing to convince the OVA to grant a September move to the Berger at its accustomed time and failed efforts by OVA to arrange meetings of the two groups, Randol announced Aug. 2 that the Symposium would cancel its fall season, leaving the church in place. He urged people to tell the OVA Board how they felt about the issue.

OVA President Steve Spanier said a first proposed meeting date didn’t work out because the church’s pastor was on vacation, and a second date didn’t work because the church wanted its attorney present and he was unavailable.

“It s a shocking turn of events,” Pastor Brinda Peterson said after learning of Randol’s announcement.

“It was a relief to us; my biggest concern was our elderly members – more than 60 percent are over 80” and would have problems with an earlier start time, Peterson said.

On Aug. 6, OVA President Steve Spanier announced the OVA Board would take up the issue at a special meeting, now set for Aug. 15.

Randol’s announcement said the symposium would strive to reschedule or replace speakers so it can resume next spring in the East Rec.

If the symposium moved to the Berger, “then in a few years when Berger is closed for renovation or replacement, we will be homeless,” Randol said. “There would be every reason to fear a repeat of the current fiasco with the church once again given priority over the needs of the symposium,” he said.

“We don’t treat any groups preferentially on their size,” Spanier said. He said that a building’s amenities and logistics for setting up seating and other needs go into location decisions.

The symposium had sought to relocate to the Berger Sept. 9, at the end of its summer hiatus. Its long-range goal has been to move there permanently, but it now expects to continue in the East Rec in light of the planned future shutdown of the Berger when it is remodeled.

The church has met in the Berger for 50 years, and averages 50 people at Sunday services, Peterson has said.

The 20-year-old symposium averages over 130 people on Sundays

East Rec’s seating capacity is rated at 100, the Berger 250. The smaller West Rec Center would have trouble accommodating either group. That and lack of sufficient space to store its equipment during the week made the West Rec unacceptable to the church.

The church will face another location hurdle in a couple of years with the expected closure of the Berger Center for remodeling.