The demolition that precedes construction begins tomorrow at Compton Heights Christian Church! After years of need and many months of dreaming, planning, revising, and revising again we are beginning. After wondering if we could take on this project to become accessible (well, more accessible — this is a first step!), we took a step of faith. We decided that God is in the ministry of this congregation in the city. We are called to be Christ’s Church proclaiming the gospel of reconciliation, peace, and justice in this community.
When we meet people on the street each Friday morning, lives are touched. When we welcome those with special needs to worship and serve, lives are touched. When we maintain our commitment to join with Christ in building a community of God’s people across the barriers of race, sexual orientation, and economic means, lives are touched. When we refuse to allow numbers to define us, and invite God’s people to create a community of ministry with us, lives are touched. When this congregation cares for people who are sick, people experience God’s healing love. We see God in each and every aspect of our life. We are not perfectly church, but we are perfectly committed to Jesus Christ who calls us to become Church. We love God and we love God’s people. We struggle and we get tired along the way. We are amazed at the gifts of God’s Spirit among us, and we are amazed at God’s ways of surprising us. We step on each other’s toes at times, and we push each other’s buttons. Community is like that!
Parker Palmer once said that we do not get to choose who is in community with us. The Church is the community of Christ. As our recent readings in the Gospel of Luke remind us, the community of Christ includes those we would least expect to name as our brothers and sisters. The community of Christ includes those who do not completely understand each other, but are brought together in the reconciling love of God. The community of Christ also includes those who are so alike, that they drive each other crazy. It is by the amazing grace of God that we are community.
So the demolition and construction begins. A nursery has been moved to new space and made more welcoming for little ones. New accessible restrooms will make the church a more welcoming place for all. A new kitchenette will help us to break bread together on the main level of the church building. The new front of the church building will provide both a ramp and steps to an accessible entrance to the narthex and sanctuary. And a new doorway will lead from the sanctuary to the hallway and restrooms.
We have not been concerned with having a fancy building. Outreach and care of God’s people has always been more important. Remaining in the city and in this neighborhood has always been more important. This congregation at one time spent 17 years living in the building of a nearby synagogue. In recent years, we have shared our space with other congregations, including, for 9 years, the first Ethiopian Orthodox congregation in St. Louis. We still share this space with two other congregations, our ecumenical urban outreach ministry, Isaiah 58 Ministries, and African Refugee and Immigrant Services, many of whom are Muslim. Truly this is a center for ministry in this community.
The work we are doing is only a beginning toward making the building accessible for all these ministries. We pray that God will continue to lead us and guide us and unite us with others who share the faith and commitment to create an evergrowing and deepening community of faith in this place!
I also pray that, a stewards of all God has given us, we are able to continue to reach out in new ways to serve God and love God’s people, and to pay for the improvements needed. We have been able to take this step of faith because so many have chosen to step out with us. Thanks be to God!