Thursday, January 22, 2015

Making space…

Several weeks back, our sanctuary and hallways were packed with young kids running and playing, while parents tried desperately to corral them. I found this moment wonderful, knowing that these kids felt safe to be joyful and glad, curious and bouncy. I’ve been to churches where kids sit scared in the corner, silent. That makes me sad. By contrast, I’m uplifted by a faith community whose commitment to Christ’s radical hospitality is so pronounced they make space for tomorrow’s leaders to grow freely, surrounded by love.

And that’s what I observed. As you might suspect, this wasn’t a Sunday morning. Our church has few families with young kids, currently. Instead, it was a Monday night when our child care center partner hosted a fundraiser with its families and friends. So they (carefully!) pushed aside the sanctuary’s chairs, put up our round tables, set up our longer tables in the hallways, on which they arranged baskets for a silent auction. Their parents brought food for a dinner potluck. From 4:30-6:30, they ate and mingled, and raised money. I laughed because our Board met that night, and the only space we could find was in the choir room! All was back to normal by our meeting’s end.

Few things could better highlight why some of our leadership has been working on something for nearly a year. We’ve talked about this project some over that time, but since a culmination nears, I figured an update’s in order. I’m referring, as you’ve surely guessed, to the building expansion we’re exploring with Yellow Brick Road.

Basically, this involves constructing more space for the church and child care to expand operations. YBR will offer up to 17 additional slots to kids from poor families, scholarshipped through state/county funds and IOCP. Remember that research increasingly suggests that high quality child care for poor kids is the most reliable investment society can make to reduce generational poverty. So we’d help accomplish that for many neighbors in need. Plus, we’d eliminate the “not enough space” problem that presently limits our ministry options. The fellowship hall would re-open, as would other rooms. We could shift energy from setting up and tearing down, to welcoming and serving others. The funding mechanism would be a 20-year lease with YBR, locking in that relationship and its financial support for our budget for the long-term, while an increase in their rent covered construction costs.

Why I’m rehashing that now is because we’ve finally transitioned from dream to actual plan. In recent weeks, our design firm has presented, then updated, architectural drawings in conversation with YBR and church leadership. We’ve shared those with a general contractor, who is currently pulling together real cost estimates. Once those are finalized, it’ll be time for the Board and congregation to consider, and hopefully approve, a loan application. You’ll receive computer-drawn 3-D images, further financial details and more at a soon-to-be scheduled congregational meeting.

Or you can talk with me, Tom Jarvi, Martha Francis or any Board member for further information. I’d gladly discuss this in great detail, because it’s a big decision about our church’s future- how we’ll get there, what it will be. We know that future has challenges. We’re not a big congregation, nor the youngest, and sometimes it feels we have little room to maneuver. Yet we’ve always given and done more than any outside observer would have right to expect! That’s because we’re gifted by God, and called to share those gifts, those values with others. So the question, for me, has become- Will we bet on our continued ability to fulfill that calling, or worry it’s too much?

You know my answer: I bet on us, and God. It’s why I’ve worked hard on this project, and believe in what it will mean. Greater budget stability, increased community visibility, enhanced ministry capacity, grander commitment to kids and the poor. Or, put simply, more space for God to work with and through us to accomplish God’s purpose and dreams. Which is why we do church, amen?! Not just to sustain a building, or gather weekly with friends, but to follow Jesus on an ever-evolving, forever-uplifting adventure we call…Grace.

Grace and Peace,
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