When a young man gets on one knee and proposes to his beloved, everything changes. It doesn’t matter what her answer is, the question itself alters their relationship forever. It’s a question that requires an answer. King of Glory Lutheran Church is facing just such a question.
The Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA) is a quasi-governmental agency whose mission is the revitalization of Arvada. They were responsible for the changes in old town and more recently the Ralston Creek Park and the new Walmart. Maureen Phair, the executive director of AURA, met with me in December to ask just such a question.
First, an update on Kmart. Kmart has a smart business strategy: negotiate very long term leases (50+yrs) and if the store closes, sublet the building at an exorbitant increase. They make money either way, and they can afford to leave the building empty for a long time. The owners of the Kmart parcel are far more interested in redeveloping that property if our roughly 3-acre property were also available for redevelopment.
So, Maureen asks me at our one-on-one meeting, do you think the congregation would be willing to sell? I don’t know, I told her, and I invited her to speak at Council’s January meeting. After updating the council and asking her question, Maureen left, and Council decided to pray, think, sleep, and ponder her question, leaving discussion until February’s Council meeting.
Actually, her question was “what would it take to bring you to the bargaining table?” She phrased it that way for a reason. There are lots of possibilities other than a straight sale. She mentioned the possibility of a land and/or building swap or of a custom-build. She asked, how near would you be want the new place to be? How large a campus? How many square feet for the building? Potentially the best case might be new (carefully selected) location, new ministry-shaped building, money in the bank, and a renewed sense of purpose and vision.
To catch up, it has been 12 years since AURA last came to us with this question, and in 2007 we formed an exploratory committee. After much research, the decision was “we’re staying here.” AURA asked once before nearly 20 years ago as well. To be clear:
1. Maureen was quick to reassure us yet again, the city will not exercise eminent domain.
2. No offer has been made and no numbers discussed.
Knowing this was too big to handle on my own, I reached out to Bishop Jim Gonia and had lunch with him to discuss the situation and ask for support and guidance. The Bishop had three things to say:
1. It would be unfaithful to not honestly consider the question. An answer from twelve years ago won’t do.
2. This is more than an opportunity to continue being KOG in a new location. This is an opportunity to rethink what “being church” looks like. Selling to fill the coffers and ensure the church’s future is not the same as capitalizing on an opportunity to adapt and thrive.
3. How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but the lightbulb has to want to change.
Bishop Jim will be with us for dinner and a presentation this Wednesday, February 20, @ 5:30. I hope you can come and speak with him yourself and hear about some of the powerful ministries God is doing.
Meanwhile, back at the February Council meeting: It is a rare thing to have all twelve council members at the same meeting, but we were lucky that Monday night. After some catch-up and explanation, I asked the Council, what is your initial reaction? The conversation for the next twenty minutes ranged from all the things that have changed over the last dozen years to all of the new things our congregation could look like: a ministry shaped building (preschool, concert hall, clothing library, senior center,…), sharing a congregation, worshipping in a school gym or a storefront, etc. We took a straw poll, who agrees with the bishop that it would be unfaithful to not engage the question? Every hand in the room went up.
Council has formed an exploratory committee to gauge congregational sentiment, and we will host a Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, March 10, after worship. Our Town Hall meeting will not be a time for voting on anything. This will be our opportunity to hear one another’s feelings and thoughts. We will take a straw poll about the bishop’s question: should we pursue the question of selling further? The exploratory committee will also meet with a commercial real estate agent and have our property assessed so we know what cards we are holding.
Gossip is often perceived as wrong, and using gossip as a weapon to harm, thwart, or break apart is wrong. However, gossip is also the means by which we process new things as a community. We have to share our feelings and thoughts with one another. We have to think it through. We have to hear what the Holy Spirit may be saying through the feelings and thoughts of others.
I am inviting you to gossip! Take the time in the next month to have ask the important questions in the parking lot, in the choir loft, in the classroom, over coffee, over the phone, or anywhere else we are gathered together. For us to be productive at our town hall meeting, we will need to have processed these big questions individually and in small groups. It will take all of us time to answer the questions:
- Is the Holy Spirit calling us to become something new?
- What are our gifts and passions as a congregation?
- What are the needs of the community around us?
- Where do our gifts and the community’s needs intersect?
Church in the 21st century will not look or function as it did in the 20th, of that much we are already sure. That we must adapt is also certain. Will we adapt here at 58th and Kipling, or will our adaptation take us somewhere new? This property and this building were gifts from those who went before us, investments intended to provide for the ever-lasting proclamation of the gospel and service to all people. How do we make best use of these gifts to fulfill the charge we were given along with the assets?
We hold all the cards. We are being asked a question, though, a question maybe coming from AURA, a question maybe coming from God, a question which simply by being asked changes everything, a question worth considering.
Peace, Pastor Todd