The Place Our Beloved Community is Housed

| March 1st, 2024

Dear Beloved Community,

As I was preparing my sermon on Mark 8 this past Sunday, considering Jesus’ call of discipleship – the call to take up our cross, to count the costs of faith, to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel – my heart was flooded with the countless ways I’ve seen your faithfulness to this call. But one in particular leapt out to me: that of our congregation’s decision back in 2017 to tear down ⅔ of our facilities and close our widely-loved Children’s Center so as to sustain our capacity to be the church in this place for years to come.

About that decision, I said this in my sermon:

Our cross to bear wasn’t old buildings or a hefty price tag, though those were real. Rather, our cross to bear was precisely the call to die to ourselves. Looking away from the lure to worship our place in the community. Refusing to worship our status among sister churches. Denying our tendencies to hold and hoard and grasp and tighten. Was this our greatest act of discipleship? I sure hope not. Does this mean we’ve made all the right decisions before and since? Of course not. Did we lose something? Did it cost us? By every metric it did. But along the way as the price tag for the project grew, the question shifted from “could we save the buildings?” to “should we save the buildings?” And your answer, our answer, was a clear no.  So did we gain a new dimension of our shared soul along the way? No question. When it mattered most, we were not confused.

One might hope that any work on our building could have been completed, right then and there! But our church house is like any of our homes, or any place that we call sacred, that needs and deserves the care of an attentive resident.

After churchwide conversations last spring about the resources of space we have, and focused conversations in a variety of leadership groups about the emerging needs and opportunities that our church house and grounds can provide, it is time again to consider the physical place our beloved community is housed, and how we can best equip her for continued faithful witness. 

In their meeting last month, the Deacons unanimously approved the formation of a Building Projects Task Force, intended, as the job description states, “to build on the church and Deacons’ 2023 work on the use of our space resources by: (1) taking stock of the needed and desired updates to our physical plant, (2) proposing a strategic plan for addressing them to the Deacons and church with special attention given to usage, sustainability, our urban context, and emerging vision for the church’s ministries, (3) coordinating with pastoral staff for church-wide discussion and discernment, and (4) pending church approval, carrying forth this plan into full implementation. The work of the Building Projects Task Force should remain in robust alignment with the church’s mission, vision, values, priorities, and Confession of Identity.” 

The women and men who will be serving on this Task Force represent the various groups who have worked tirelessly on our facilities needs and possibilities, including the Special Committee on Facilities and Mission which led our 2018-2019 project, the Deacon subgroup on Space Resources, the House and Grounds Committee, and the Finance Committee. It also includes some representative voices from members at large, drawing together a wide cross-section of our congregation to discern our next call of discipleship as far as our space is concerned. 

As Sheree Jones and I talked with these folks upon asking them to serve, we both assured them that this project, whatever its scope may be, won’t have the same reach as the last. It won’t be as hard, or long, or expensive (we hope!), or wearisome to us all. Though it may not ask us to tear down spaces we’ve long loved, I have no doubt that the God who called us to take up our cross years ago will ask us to do so again. The details may change, but our faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to us will not. 

You can expect more information about the Building Projects Task Force over the coming weeks and months as they begin their work. Please be in prayer for them as they begin, and in hopeful imagination for this next faithful witness to the God who welcomes us home again.

Together in God’s work of Love,
Pastor Emily