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 21 purchased a traditional building for worship. "One of the things that drove us to start the farm was the recogni- tion of the abandoned land and the abandoned people in the neighbor- hood. The buildings were unoccupied or torn down," Creasy said. "Yet, when I think of sacred space, I think of something beautiful where I can encounter God. That's not what we had at the beginning of the farm. But it has been transformed because of the thousands of pounds of compost and the participation of people in the community." The farm has been a hands-on lesson in experiencing God's res- toration, a lesson that might have been missed if the congregation had invested in a traditional building. New uses for existing space When members of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, were creating a strategic plan for ministry and stewardship, they felt drawn to emulate Christ's ministry of wellness to a hurting community. The congregation created The Community Well, a place where people can seek health and wholeness in mind, body and spirit, and find a sense of purpose by connecting with others. The congregation was founded in a meetinghouse in 1698. People have sung praises, pondered God's word and cared for one another in that spot since then. Times changed and so did the ministries. Buildings have been torn down and added, renovated and upgraded to serve the various missions of the congregation over time. Today, The Community Well offers yoga and healthy eating classes as well as classes for seniors, medi- tation, family counseling, spiritual direction and mental health services. The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey A. Vamos, pastor at the church, says that even though the congregation is full of vitality, it's partnerships that allow The Community Well to offer such a large variety of services. The Community Well has teachers, leaders and counselors who rent space to provide their services, creating both revenue and inspiration for the congregation. "We decided to leverage the resources that we have," Vamos said. "That includes the building, our people and the social network of the congregation. We are turning the liability of empty space into a benefit for the congregation." While the church had enough space for wellness programs, the congregation still had to invest in changes to make space usable for the different groups. For example, classes for seniors needed large flat screens that the instructors could use to show images and videos, and some of the Sunday school rooms had to be flexible enough to be used as comfortable, intimate spaces for counseling. Volunteer labor from the congregation helped to offset some of the cost of the improvements, Vamos said. Like the community wells in the Bible, The Community Well in the church is bringing together the people of Lawrenceville. Not all of the programming is overtly religious, but the mission is Jesus-centered. Vamos says Jesus gave people's lives purpose when he called them, taught them or healed them, in a community setting. "I see God working in the relation- ships that happen when we start taking risks with other professionals and practitioners in the community," he said. "We are not in the business of maintaining endowments and buildings, but making disciples. We are doing what Jesus did — meeting people where they are and offering them a change for wellness." As congregations seek to be faithful in changing times, the ways they build ministry and mission will change. But Hooker says some things about being Christ's church remain the same. "Throughout its long history, the church has made sacred a variety of spaces, from catacombs to cathe- drals," he said. "It is true that these spaces are sometimes costly and — in an ultimate sense — impermanent. But it is also true that they serve a psychological and spiritual function to prepare us for an encounter with the divine. What makes the space sacred is its regular use by the body of Christ." Sue Washburn is the pastor of Reunion Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, a retreat leader and a free- lance communicator. LEARN MORE Need financing for a building project? The Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP) provides low-cost loans to congregations. Your congregation is invited to take advantage of a free consultation service called a Preliminary Look, where PILP consultants help evaluate the church's capacity to fund the project before applying for a loan. For more information, visit pilp.pcusa.org If your congregation is discerning its next steps in terms of creating a meaningful new ministry, the Presbyterian Foundation's Project Regeneration team can walk alongside you as an objective third party. Its team of financial experts are also pastors, elders and active members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who understand the hopes and dreams of congregations. Learn more about Project Regeneration at presbyterianfoundation.org/project-regeneration

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