Why would we think about doing things differently?
That’s the basic question whenever we begin looking at possibilities in our personal or congregational lives. You’ll see elsewhere in this newsletter that the Board has set January 20 as a congregational meeting to talk about exploring a possibility, that of whether we could build a new space in cooperation with the Manhattan Mennonite Church. Many of you have been part of conversations about the idea of moving from our beloved home. Some of you probably haven’t, so here are the basics:
- One of the three goals the congregation set for Developmental Ministry is growth. We are experiencing slow growth.
- This fall our attendance is up. The sanctuary is getting crowded again, and the parking lot even more crowded, at times even full.
- To expand on our current site would cost more than $3 million because of the hill, septic field, and other factors, and would still leave us with inadequate parking.
- Land and church buildings are difficult to find in Manhattan.
So, our leadership–lay and professional–has been exploring options, including the possibility of sharing space. A lot would need to be worked out, of course–service times, governance and rules of the space, design, how two separate organizations would work together.
As minister of a democratically functioning congregation, I defer to the decisions made by the congregation. I also, though, remind you of the theological principles that might underlie decisions. First, our commitment to environmental sustainability encourages us to look at our carbon footprint as a congregation. Currently, only the most intrepid (and our one member who lives on Zeandale Road!) ever bike or walk to our location. Also, sharing a space would reduce both congregations’ use of natural (and financial) resources. Second, one aspect of our vision is to be a beacon, which can be hard to do when our location is obscure. It makes sense to consider where we can best serve our community. Finally, as a congregation we have responsibility not only to our current members, but also to those who will come after. We need to consider, at times, not what is best and most convenient for ourselves, but what is best for the organization in the long-term.
There are, of course, legitimate concerns and questions about the possibility of moving, and of cooperating with another group to do so. Hearing all of those out is mandatory for a covenanted community striving to be its best self.
Possibilities are both exciting and scary, controversial and energizing. May our discussion be respectful and filled with curiosity.
In faith and freedom, Jonalu