Friday, October 03, 2008

Party on High Street!

Today was a big day! After a full year of praying, discerning, researching, hoping, imagining, and exploring, we finally signed on the dotted line, and we now have a new home for worship and ministry!

Two-and-a-half years ago, after decades of decline, the small congregation of Chestnut Street United Methodist Church sold its historic facility -- a National Register of Historic Places property with a sanctuary with seating for 850, 44 rooms, a gymnasium, a separate office/chapel building, apartments, and a good-sized parking lot, all next to City Hall -- and rather than experiencing this as a death sentence, instead chose life and began to imagine a new kind of ministry.

When Sara and I began our appointment here as co-pastors in July 2007, we added a new dimension to the adventure by covenanting with them to provide pastoral leadership while also planting a new community of faith. That new church start, soon to celebrate the first anniversary of its inaugural gathering, we call New Light, and together, Chestnut UMC and New Light are moving into the future as partners in ministry and mission.

Already the two communities share pastoral leadership. We've begun to imagine some shared ministries, and certainly parallel and complementary ministries. And starting today, we also share a facility. Chestnut UMC will hold its Sunday morning worship services in this new home on High Street. New Light will continue to be made up of LIFE Groups that meet in people's homes, but we'll begin a public Sunday evening worship gathering monthly as soon as the new facility is ready, and then in March, a weekly Sunday evening worship gathering.

We're working with an architect to finalize plans for some renovations to open up the space and make it a bit more accessible, so it will be a while before we can begin to use it fully. When it's complete, it will include a main gathering space with seating capacity for about 75; an office; two children's rooms, a good-sized kitchen, and two restrooms.

Here's what I wrote in a letter to the congregation:
It is our great joy to join Rev. Mike Davis, Tri-State District Superintendent, in giving authorization for the purchase of 185 High Street, Unit 6, as a new home for worship and ministry for Chestnut United Methodist Church and New Light.

Let this new facility be called…
  • a launching pad for mission and ministry
  • a house of hospitality and hope and healing
  • a neighborhood center
  • a place where children are always welcome
  • a testament to the prayer and discernment of a faithful remnant
  • a sanctuary for encountering God
  • a symbol of resurrection and new life
  • a classroom for out-of-the-box thinking
  • a safe place for exploring the way of Jesus
  • a home for open hearts, open minds, and open doors
  • a breeding ground for peace and justice
  • a shelter for the dispossessed
  • a living room for building community
  • a witness to the power of the Holy Spirit

Let it never be called a fortress, a club for insiders, an island disconnected from its neighbors, a museum celebrating the past, or a place where people go through the motions.

The prophet Jeremiah conveys God’s words of assurance to God’s people: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11). This purchase marks the beginning of a new chapter of ministry, and the future is filled with hope!

If you're the praying sort, we'd really appreciate your prayers as we begin this new adventure. It opens up a lot of possibilities for incarnational ministry as we literally move into the neighborhood. Of course, it also ushers in a host of new challenges. But we trust that the same God who has guided us to this place will surely guide us through the challenges that lie ahead, and for that we are thankful.

If you're in the Portland area, we hope you can join us for a big ol' celebration when we officially open the doors -- and then join us as we move out of the four walls and into the city, renewed in spirit, re-energized for ministry and mission, ready to serve, ready to learn from our neighbors, and ready to be the Body of Christ in the world.

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