On Wednesday I met with my colleague at Grace and Betania churches, the Spanish speaking missioner with Betania. We meet the the bishop for Spanish speaking churches in our diocese next week. We will make a strategy for meeting with one of the agencies in the city who have been wanting to settle in much of the church long-term in return for reasonable regular donations. And a congregation of Spanish speaking Pentecostal Christians is looking for a home and we are in a position to consider that with them. Tentative date for the sit down is tomorrow.
The end result is in God's hands, so far as God is given to work through we the servants of God. The place where I serve is outward-focused, a resource for the community at large and for the diocese. The building is busy every day, all week, with organizations from this multicultural community. If, in order to continue to be of use in God's mission of reconciliation and restoration, the congregation responsible for this building needs to give up some things that have long been theirs, the only alternative is to close and send the community away to fend for itself.
It is possible, and plans were made over ten years ago under my predecessor twice removed, to recast the worship space for multipurpose use. Doing this would free up the rest of this considerable building for long-term sharing by organizations in a position to make reasonable contributions to help defray the cost of keeping the building open and running.
So, imagine this. We have a very large worship space, built in 1964, in the a-frame style. The traditional altar/choir area was renovated over ten years ago to be a stage appropriate for liturgical theatre, and where the choir and organ are, and where the altar was until we moved it to the main floor. The ultimate next stage would be to remove all the pews and replace them with chairs, and to demarcate the ordinary worship space in the back two bays of the nave, plus the balcony, with a row of four potted trees on wheeled platforms. The altar is already moveable, being a beautiful, craftsman table. For weddings and funerals the trees could be moved, and the altar brought to the front where it is now. For the rest of the time the space could be available for all the groups that currently meet in the classrooms, undercroft hall, and Memorial Room. The Children's Spirituality Center would move from the office wing to the Chapel. The open space east of the row of trees could have a conversation/meeting/classroom area with comfy furniture, whatever. The sky is the limit.
Everything could be moved away to permit the entire nave to be used for meals.
Grants will need to be written to defray the cost of all this. It will not be the million or so dollars needed for structural changes. There are no structural changes planned. The organ is on a platform that is on rollers. It would cost money to move it off the stage, down two steps to the main floor, to open up that space to be available to churches and other non-profits that don't have the space we have to mount concerts and other programs. It would also cost money to move the cross at the east end of the church to hang, instead, from a crossbeam in the center of the nave, and that is not a necessary move. Mostly we would need money for new chairs for worship, new folding tables, new folding chairs for group meetings and meals, the four trees, their upkeep, and interior glass doors, on the inside of the current front doors to the church, so that the front doors can be open all the time without letting all the heat out.
Now, is this appropriate matter for a blog post? Why not - it's my blog! ( chuckle ) Anyway, this is a dream that predates my term here, and suddenly, circumstances are pushing it to the forefront and it just may come true.
Now all we have to do is figure out how to pay for the privilege of having clergy. That's another dream, because if, instead of being the clergyperson for a congregation, I were to found a center for spiritual development and seek grant funding to support myself in that, and be housed at the church where I serve... Well, you get the picture. With God, all things are possible, if I, we, don't panic and run away.
UPDATE: I forgot the chair lift - you know, one of those chairs that rides up a staircase. We need one to go up one of the stairways to the balcony.