Amid budget talks and the news of JD’s upcoming departure, it’s possible that we have not made as big a deal of another important piece of business addressed in our quarterly church conference at the end of August: the creation of a new ad hoc committee to produce a master plan for our facilities, giving special consideration to missions’-driven revenue generating opportunities.

With historic buildings like ours, repair and maintenance are always looming realities. And yet these past three years have brought a series of extraordinary concerns, including an unforeseen and costly repair of our spire.

The long season of disruption due to the pandemic has also forced us to imagine and use our facilities differently. Who would have thought our parking lot would make such a wonderful sanctuary?

As we have returned, we are also finding that we are a different congregation than we were before with different needs than we did just a few years ago. We are delighted that our children’s ministry is as strong as ever, but accessibility concerns have left their traditional spaces insufficient. Sunday school class changes have led to the swapping of rooms and some spaces left open.

After so much time away from the buildings, we’ve also come back into them with new eyes. Scuffs in the drywall, stains in the carpet, and other eyesores are not as easy to walk past. 

But where there is need, there is also opportunity. 

In worship and on Wednesday nights this fall we’re engaging in sermons and conversations inspired by a wonderful book by Sam Wells entitled, A Future That’s Bigger Than The Past. In it, Wells joins others in articulating the many challenges facing the church in the present season, but then offers hopeful, practical solutions. Many of these solutions involve rethinking how we use our church buildings to open them to our community, as well as generate revenue to fund our mission and ministry. 

Most importantly, he argues these are not worst-case options driven by necessity, but as opportunities to refocus our mission that perhaps we would not find ourselves open to without being pushed by new realities. In other words, times of challenge can be clarifying and life-giving. 

Of course, churches have been thinking in this way for years. It’s led to church preschools and daycares, as well as space rentals and other partnerships.

What other possibilities might there be for us as we take a step back and ask what our unique calling is as a church at this moment? In our almost 200 year history we have mostly designed our spaces with our needs in mind. What would happen if we designed them from a wider view?

Might a concerted effort to open our facilities to our neighbors bring us into closer relationship with them? Might it also provide us financial flexibility to secure the long term presence of our church and its unique and vital presence in our community?

These are the questions this committee will lead us in asking in the coming year. Pray for them in their work, and be on the lookout for updates as we proceed.

It may be that the disruption of Covid, painful as it was, will turn out to be the inspiration we needed to think anew about who we are called to be, and how we can best use all that God and past generations of this church have given us. Let us not let it go to waste.



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