Our pastor is always talking about how he doesn't like the question, "Where do you go to church?", because church isn't a place. WE, as followers of Christ, are the church. However, we do have a place, a building, we go to to worship and fellowship with others who are also part of the church. This post is about that place.
For the past 4ish years, our weekly gatherings were in a building that belonged to someone else. We shared the space peacefully during that time, but God apparently had somewhere else He wanted us to be. In 2008 the executive team at Providence (our "church") made a list of things they wanted in a building if we were going to move to a new location. In the borough of West Chester (where God called our pastors to reach out to the community) only one building met every requirement. The asking price: $3 million. This wasn't an amount we could afford. So, our leadership team trusted God and waited.
The price went down to $2.7 million. Still, it was out of budget. Over the next 18 months the price continued to drop. $2.4 million. Then $1.8 million. Next down to $1.4 million. We ended up closing on the building for one million dollars, one-third of the original asking price. The owner said he would not have sold it to anyone else for such a low price. He wanted us to have this building. More importantly, God wanted us to have this building.
The top level of the building had been used for banquets and weddings and was absolutely gorgeous. It would need some electrical work done, a sound booth, a stage and a few other things to convert it into a "sanctuary", but it was definitely doable. The second floor, however, had been home to the Italian Social Club and had a bar larger than my family room smack in the middle of the great room. This was where our Children's Ministry was destined to be located.
It became a running joke, the huge bar in our church. We'd joke about putting the babies behind the bar to play or serving drinks to the kids for snack time. But in reality, those of us responsible for the Children's Ministry had to figure out a way to make it feel less like a dingy bar (without removing the actual bar) and more like an exciting place to learn about Jesus.
We did walk-thrus and talk-thrus. We made and changed plans. Finally we came to a decision and had our tasks laid out before us to begin the transformation.
Part one: cleaning, repairing, replacing, altering, building, painting, carpeting. We had a work day planned. We planned on having only 6 of us there to do all the massive amounts of work on our list. But God's plans are bigger and better. We had so many people show up with willing attitudes and happy hearts. And things got done!
Part two: decorating, packing, moving, supplying, unpacking. It was in this stage we realized how little toys/games/materials we actually had of our own. Rooms looked empty. Walls looked bare. Thankfully God gives everyone different talents and we are blessed to have organizers along with creative minds involved in our Children's Ministry. Rooms and walls did not stay empty for long.
Part three: just add kids. Tonight, we had our first meeting in our new building. It was awesome. Seeing the faces of the parents and children as they looked around and discovered all the fun, new things. Their new classrooms. In OUR new building. That God provided. Having the kids there tonight in their respective classrooms for the first service, a special celebration service, was the final touch.
We are where God has destined us to be. We are in His Providence.