Well, either this or move to Medicine Hat. ;)
Another post that I have been hesitant to put up. Perhaps April 1 is an appropriate day to post this. Consider this a work of fiction, kind of.
It all started a few months ago while glancing through the local real estate ads. Or maybe it started earlier with snippets of ideas accumulated over a period of time. I am not sure exactly, and now it doesn’t matter.
There it was, a little church for sale. It reignited earlier thoughts of a building that could serve as a chapel.
I’m not sure why this particular building captured my imagination.
At first I tried to talk myself out of it. It was too small, kind of quirky, too small. But in response, I thought location, location, location.
It is situated a couple of blocks from the college campus, right in the middle of a neighborhood of apartments with students, young families, and single parents.
And the fact that it is small, makes it very approachable. It is a really simple building, basically a sanctuary and a fellowship room with a foyer in the middle.
I didn’t mean to, but suddenly I found myself fantasizing about the possibilities of a neighborhood parish, a space for being present in the neighborhood.
I wanted to call it Sanctuary, consisting of The Chapel on one side and The Table on the other, both for the purpose of providing space.
The Chapel would provide private space for people to encounter God in prayer and worship, and The Table would provide hospitality for people to encounter God through others.
Admittedly, I spent a considerable amount of time mentally remodeling and redecorating the building. Of course, it looked fabulous!
I wanted The Chapel to be an inviting, quiet place where anyone could just step in for safe, private space. I know that in hospitals, people use the chapel for prayer during times of need.
I don’t know if people in a community would feel welcome to use a neutral, quiet place of prayer and worship. Perhaps if the community or neighborhood knew that the building was for them and not for a congregation, they would feel welcome and invited, free to drop in.
The value of personal sacred space would be carefully guarded in the chapel. People would not be approached or targeted for conversation or ministry during their time in the chapel.
I couldn’t really find a single picture that captured the essence of the room, but these pictures morphed together would be close. Comfortable seating, arranged randomly and grouped for intimacy, with folding screens for areas of privacy. Peaceful background music, prayer books available, and of course candles.
It would also be fun to host open-mic sort of evenings in The Chapel with college kids and other musicians in the community.
The Table would simply be a coffee lounge type area open to anyone who felt like dropping in. In my fantasy, there would be coffee throughout the day with baked goods and a pot of soup to share with those who came by. A small library, free wifi, and a friendly host or hostess.
My hope would be that lonely seniors would gather, young moms who needed out of the house, college kids just hanging out, and other folks would feel comfortable to drop by and relax for awhile.
Probaby a little more casual than this picture, warmer wall color, cozier decor.
I would also want to host ultra-inclusive potluck type events at The Table for fellowship and communion.
I persistently alternated between pursuing these thoughts and dismissing their feasibility.
Of course the immediate obstacle was money. To start with, I have trouble with the idea of having ministry money wrapped up in buildings, but there is a point where a building can be a useful tool of ministry. So I decided that if God wanted me to have this building He would give it me. That’s realistic, huh?
Then I thought that perhaps I needed to take a step or two in order for God to give me this building. I mean really, how could He accomplish that if no one even knew I wanted the building? So I considered talking to some friends who are realtors. I also considered dropping in and talking to the pastor who was selling the building.
Those imaginary conversations were always awkward and ridiculous, so I didn’t pursue that. I also was aware that the small congregation selling the building probably needed the money.
Next, after weeks of listening to me, my husband teased me with the idea of buying it if it’s what I really wanted to do. So I toyed with that idea for a while.
I penciled out the reality of taking out a mortgage on non-income-producing investment property. In addition, there would be the monthly operating expenses. Ultimately, this would be a really expensive hobby for me. With three kids heading to college, it didn’t seem like a wise move for our family.
Not to mention, between work and homeschool, I didn’t have the time to pull this off alone, and I was hesitant to drum up support for “my vision.”
In the meantime, I drove by most days, making a trip past the building part of my new route through town. Until the fateful day when I realized my building had been sold.
So I quit driving by. I didn’t really want to see the building converted or torn down. Sometimes I wondered if I missed an opportunity.
Sometimes I would read things from others that expressed the heart of what I wished. Listen to this from Ron Cole…
Could we make the church the hub of the hood again. There are so many churches locked up for six and a half days a week, what would happen if we made them more accessable, like a neighborhood gathering place???a coffee pot, large pot of soup brewing. What would happen if it was the neighborhoods as much as it was the ??? churches.??? The opening words of John???s gospel, ??? God moved into the neighborhood???pitched his tent.??? Seems like a pretty hospitable picture???
The other day, after a couple of months, I decided to drive by and see if the building still stood. It was there. As I passed, I tried to read the sign out front.
At the top it said, A Place of New Hope. Interesting.
I didn’t catch what was next, so I drove around the block.
The next line said, Ideas for Ministry, Call 123-4567.