Monday, July 25, 2011

A Building Is Not Just a Place to Be

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable,
always excelling in the work of the Lord,
because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
I Corinthians 15:58

On Sunday morning August 31, 2008, after an all night prayer vigil, we began worship at 214 Main Street and concluded the morning in our new church at 1558 South County Trail. It was a bittersweet moment for many of us, saying good bye to the building that had been our church home for 175 years, and beginning a new journey in a new place.

As the song says,
The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place, the church is a people.

“We Are the Church.” But buildings matter. The church is not a “virtual” reality. It is flesh and bones. It is a body, which we believe is the body of Christ. And it exists in time and space. It is concrete (or wood, or brick . . .). The building is just a building. If there is no congregation, then it is not a church. The people, on the other hand, are a church even without the building. But buildings matter.

After three years, it is clear that our new building makes a difference. We knew it would be modern and convenient. We knew that we would enjoy accessibility and function of the new space. And we knew that it would be wonderful to have acres of parking. But in so many ways it has been more than we expected. The narthex is a welcoming space that is even more inviting than we imagined. The sanctuary, with the wonderful blend of stained glass, warm tones, sacred symbols, flexible space, excellent acoustics, and high tech audio-visual capability, is a sensory delight. The Education area is designed for easy flow into and out of the sanctuary, and the room decorations and Bible verses remind us who we are and whose we are.

And we are not the same people we were three years ago. The great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, once said, “A building is not just a place to be. It is a way to be.” The welcoming design both reflects and supports who we are. Our new space is comfortable and sacred at the same time. We can feel at home here.

Our new street address at 1558 South County Trail reminds us of what we have claimed as our biblical address. In I Corinthians 15:58, Paul summarizes the meaning of the resurrection. Because Christ lives our labor is not in vain. In the economy of God’s love, nothing is lost. What we do matters, not just for now, but forever. This has been a good lesson for us as we have worked through the long and difficult journey that brought us to this place. We can be faithful and steadfast and do our best to excel, knowing that it makes a difference. Nothing will be lost.

This is a good reminder, because the way is not easy. This is a challenging time to be the church in America. But we can move into the future with faith, knowing that nothing will be lost.

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