Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | APRIL/MAY 2018 19 past and a bequest to its future. What to do about buildings and prop- erties is almost always best done if we understand ourselves as stewards on behalf of both the community and Christ, rather than as owners." The concept of space The theology of space is influenced by culture as well. While it's impos- sible to paint all people of a genera- tion with one brushstroke, there are big-picture differences in how baby boomers and millennials approach the concept of place. For many older adults, physical space is important. Jobs were done at specific desks in offices, hymns were printed in books, and post-World War II mortgage incentives meant houses and churches were desired symbols of security and prosperity. However, place and property are different in millennials' lives. They have come of age in a world where jobs are done on computers from home or a coffee shop, hymns are stored digitally then projected, and home ownership numbers are dropping as the number of houses being rented is increasing. Having church without owning a building makes sense if Bibles are on phones and hymns can be shown on a blank wall. As the congregation of FPC Knoxville discerned what God was calling them to do, they realized that the church building was a busy place, serving more nonmembers than members. The building was a way of showing Christ's love to neighbors, even if it was outdated. "We were an old, downtown church building. Everything had lived beyond its time — plumbing, heating and air conditioning. We didn't even have a single ADA-accessible bathroom. And yet, a theater group holds its rehearsals here, adults from a local group home use the facility for education and training for people with special needs, and a musical group uses the space. That's in addition to the graveyard, which is a magnet for people, especially at Halloween," said the Rev. Dr. William Pender, senior pastor. FPC had an opportunity to move to the suburbs, but felt that there was more ministry to do where they were. The decision to stay, though, required a lot of thought and prayer. "We experienced some fear about making the decision. We could easily make the argument that there are other justice and mercy issues that need to be addressed, but we felt God calling us to be a ministry of witness and presence right where we have always been," Pender said. Without a building New congregations today often begin without their own building. They nest in an existing church, travel from home to home or rent space for worship. The Open Door in Pittsburgh is a congregation that has never owned its own church building in more than 12 years of ministry. It began in the basement of an estab- lished church and has since wor- shipped in three different spaces. The Rev. John Creasy says this has helped them realize that following Jesus is about being a good community partner as well as engaging in faithful worship. A tra- ditional building does not have to be part of that. "It's ridiculous to think we need to pay for a big building that we sit in once a week for an hour or two," he said. "We should make sure the building is vital, being used through- out the week. Some churches have enough programs to do that in and of themselves. But for those who don't, partnership can connect the congre- gation to the community. Not to share our buildings is selfish and sinful." The South Carolina-based Chapel of Hope in Hanson Circle meets in a government-subsidized apart- ment building rather than a church building. Many members of the congregation are on a limited income, sometimes having to choose between purchasing medication and buying food. The Rev. Herb Codington says that not having to worry about a building drops the cost of ministry significantly. He finds an apt metaphor for thinking about build- ings and property in Jesus' teaching about pouring new wine into old wineskins. 6% 1% 3% 5% 7% 7% 8% 10% 11% 13% 14% 21% 41% Space provided by PC(USA) congregation Home Coffee shop Bar or pub Community center, nonprofit or library Rents or owns own space Outdoors Space provided by other denomination School Restaurant Office Movie theater Other Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina, is the congregation known for its big garden on the front lawn of its church. The vegetables are donated to local food pantries. ANGIE ANDRIOT/PC(USA) RESEARCH SERVICES OF N E W WOR S H I P I N G C O M M U N I T I E S have a regular gathering space These gathering spaces include:

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