I felt a surge of energy and joy as I clicked the “Leave Meeting” button on the Zoom call this morning.
The faces of representatives from the UCC’s Church Building and Loan Fund, Inc., were bright and cordial, as well, because they had excitement about the potential for our building as an asset shared with the wider community. My energy and joy came from seeing a way for our building and grounds to be a benevolence in the neighborhood.
Benevolence comes from bene, “good”, and velle, “wishes.” We’re familiar with the way the word describes a gift given to another when the giver’s heart is in the right place. A true benevolence is something offered with no strings attached other than the desire to see good happen in the receiver’s life.
But in regard to our building, we get something back: freedom, lightness, a sense of open-handed welcome and hospitality toward those in the community who already use our building.
The bottom line is that the use of church buildings is changing. In the Christendom society that ended in the early 2000s, attendance at worship and the numbers of people affiliated with an organized religious group took a precipitous drop. Buildings like ours that were built for intermittent use on weekends with only a few uses during the week typically have large sanctuary and fellowship spaces to accommodate the large crowds that typically attended church on Sundays.
But the spaces we’re currently renting to Outdoor Painters of MN, The Northshore Barbershop Chorus, and the Highland Friendship Club during the week are the Gathering Room and classrooms, by and large, and the Court on the east end of the building. Except for the Gathering Room, these spaces could use renovation, refurbishing, and energy-efficient insulation and new windows and cooling systems that make them habitable year-round.
We are doing that in a piecemeal way. My excitement about the conversation with the Church Building and Loan Fund people comes from the prospect that they can help us envision our building as a community/spiritual center more closely aligned with the needs of our neighbors (residential and commercial), with a distinctive mission guiding how we renovate and use the building.
It’s a return to our church’s founding roots as a community church before we became Congregational and finally a United Church of Christ.
What do you see when you let your mind and heart dream? What do YOU envision that God can make possible?