Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Location Announcement

Church of the Nativity is delighted to announce a new step of faith: the purchase of a new location.  Since January 2008, we have been meeting in a 5,000 square foot office building suite, provided courtesy of one of our members.  Our lease on that space expires at the end of 2012, and we have been diligently searching for a new home for our growing, lively church.

On Wednesday of Holy Week, we finally reached an agreement to purchase an incomplete building located just south of the southeast corner of Williams & Miller in North Scottsdale.  We have a due diligence period ahead to determine whether all inspections and so forth are in order.  We have already raised the funds necessary to purchase the building, and will begin work right away on raising the funds necessary to complete it.

The building was originally intended to be a 24,000-square-foot, 2-story office building.  In 2009, as the recession deepened, it was abandoned in mid-construction.  What is there is simply a concrete foundation and cinder block walls, open to the sky.  Here are two pictures, one from the inside and one from the outside:

Here are some exciting facts about this building;

  • It's right in the middle of a terrific neighborhood - close to the center of where our members live; near a school, a retirement home, a hospital, a post office, a library, and many homes; right on a major street (if you exit the 101 at Hayden and go 2 miles north, Hayden turns into Miller and you pass right by this building).  It's just south of Pinnacle Peak Road, which is one of the two cross streets that go through to Tatum, meaning there is easy access from Desert Ridge/north Phoenix.  The park where we have our church picnics and animal blessings is less than half a mile away, so we can still use it for outdoor recreation activities.
  • We will have 50 parking spaces full-time, and will be able to use 200 parking spaces in the office development on evenings and Sundays - so we don't have to pay a million dollars an acre for land to park cars on, or for that matter, pay to build and maintain a parking lot.
  • As you can see in the photos, the building is in a state of incompletion that will allow us to completely redesign it to look like a church.  We have spoken in detail with the head Scottsdale city planner, who assures us that the city is eager to see something happen with this property, and will be very favorably disposed to our redesign ideas.
  • We will have a high-ceilinged, 2-story nave, allowing for terrific cathedral-type acoustics and a truly worshipful feel.
  • The rest of the building can be built out as 2 stories of classroom, office, parish hall, etc.  We would start Phase I by building out the ground floor only: 12,000 square feet, leaving expansion room for later.
  • We have a right of first refusal on the 6,600-square-foot office building just to the north, which might be a future expansion site for classrooms and offices.
  • We will have room outdoors for a patio for gathering, and either a playground or healing/worship garden.
More than anything, here is what I love about this location: it will allow us to be the incarnated presence of the Risen Christ in the midst of our community.  For the past 30 years or so, suburban churches have tended to build on large campuses, somewhat isolated from the community (at least by a parking lot).  This site harkens back to an older tradition: the tradition of building the village church right in the middle of the village, where people live, work, and go to school.  We can be the welcoming church community for our neighborhood.  We can reach out to help the hungry, the lonely, and the lost.  We can preach the good news of Easter to a world that only believes in Good Friday.  We can worship, grow, and transform lives with the love of Jesus Christ.  Thanks be to God!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Future of the Church?

I posted this article on Facebook yesterday: "Of Storks and Canaries: Youth Ministry, New Vocations, and the Future of the Church," by the Rev. Frederick Schmidt. The article makes the very good point that we need to treat youth and young adult ministry as a serious vocation and not a way station on the way to somewhere else; and we need to call and equip appropriate leaders for that ministry, including young adults. Our future as a church depends on it.

Well and good. My post prompted the following comment from a young seminarian: "Regarding patronizing attitudes, I think the denomination needs to gain some clarity about who the church is. The 'under-30' crowd, and even the under-20s, are not just 'the future of the church.' We too are the church."

Also well and good. Although the commenter was focusing on young(ish) adults, and I am really focusing on children 18 and under, I couldn't agree more - young people are here now, and they are fully as important members in our congregations as the older members who generally exercise leadership and control resources. The fact that we should be ministering to young people in our churches should be self-evident. We shouldn't have to argue to get appropriate resources allocated to children's and youth ministries - the least and smallest should always come first in the church. Didn't Jesus say that? Frederick Schmidt's article should not be necessary, and it shouldn't be necessary for the House of Bishops to spend a meeting considering how to reach out to young people. It should be happening as a matter of course, right? Our future depends on it, right?

Well, right. But I think this whole question is framed wrong. If we're saying that we should be ministering to young people because they are the future of our church, we have it exactly backwards.

Here's the deal: we don't do ministry to anyone in order to build up the church. The church is not an end in itself, and young people are not the means to an end. We don't do ministry to young people so that the church will survive - because we fear that we will die if we don't. If we are leaders in Christ's church, then we are meant to be leading the mission of Jesus. Not perpetuating an institution. Not operating out of fear.

Don't get me wrong - I love the church. I love this institution, and I think it's worth perpetuating. But I'm a leader in Christ's church because I believe in Christ's mission. And I will stay a leader in Christ's church as long as I believe that it's the best hope for accomplishing Christ's mission.

We don't do ministry with young people so that our church will survive. We do ministry with young people because Jesus loves them. We do it because we love them. We do it because we want their world to be a better place. We do it because of who we are as followers of Jesus. And we do it because of who they are.

And who are they? This is who they are:
  • They are the two children who committed suicide this week in a neighborhood near my church. And they are all the other children in my neighborhood and yours who are depressed, sad and lonely enough for that horrible thought to cross their minds.
  • They are the gay and lesbian teenagers who are trying to understand how God made them, and whether Jesus loves them the way they are.
  • They are the bright, committed and earnest students who make straight As in school, and wonder whether they will ever be able to afford a college education.
  • They are the runaways who spend their days in the airport terminal because it's air-conditioned, they can use the restrooms, and no one will kick them out.
  • They are the kids who understand that Jesus loves them, but wonder why a powerful and loving God would allow a tsunami to wipe out whole villages in Japan.
  • They are the young people who are confronted with a parent's serious and life-threatening illness, and who have to come to terms with questions of life and death way, way too young.
  • They are the kids who come to youth group because they like the fun and games, and they are the kids who come to youth group because they want to understand Jesus.
  • They are the kids who are bullied, and they are the kids who do the bullying.
  • They are the kids who wish their parents would leave them alone.
  • They are the kids who wish their parents would pay them some attention.
  • They are children of God.
These children of God - inside the church, and outside the church - need to know that God loves them. That's why we do youth ministry.