At Grace, we are about to embark on renovations that are intended to make our facilities more welcoming and accessible to our own members and to our neighbors. It’s an exciting time and although the overall scope of the project remains uncertain, we expect to begin construction in July. The most recent update is available here. My letter to the congregation explaining the scope of the conversation is here: Letter_constructionUpdate5.8.15
I’ve written extensively about this process over the last several years (we began talking about it in 2012) and while we have been concerned about necessary maintenance and upgrades to our facilities, at the forefront of our conversation have always been the questions: “How can the facilities of Grace Church be a blessing and asset to our neighborhood?” and “How can our spaces help our neighbors connect with God and each other?”
In light of those questions, and in light of the financial and human resources we have committed to this process, I have found the following two articles thought-provoking:
Jacob Armstrong, “What if your church had no building?”
In a time when those who don’t already come to church won’t just come to church on their own, we have to be creative in the ways we go to them. It does not mean an abandonment of church buildings or that we should not build new buildings. It does mean that the buildings are used and seen in different ways than they were before and that we must be committed to our communities in ways we weren’t before.
We begin by listening to and learning from our communities (even if we have lived there a long time!). Next we commit or recommit ourselves to the people outside the walls of our church. To reach new people, we have to have a visible presence in our community. Look for ways to engage the community where church members and attendees get the opportunity to live their faith by serving others.
Death and Resurrection in an urban church:
Change also is evident in what’s going on in Sunday school classrooms that sat dark for decades.
Today, they are filled with an unusual collection of small businesses that rent space, together with fledgling organizations that get space for free. Meeting in the church now is a metropolitan youth orchestra and an eclectic mix of artists and, on Sunday nights, 50 or more gamers.
There’s a dance studio and a pottery shop and an office for a small architectural firm. The church acquired a commercial kitchen license, and now people from the neighborhood use it for catering startups.