We have been looking for a new worship gathering location since the beginning of the year – and now we have found it! Beginning this Sunday (June 12, 2013) we will begin gathering for worship at the Stanwood Community and Senior Center! I’ll share more about this place, but first, some background:
As you can see from some of my previous posts, we have experienced some difficulties and learned a lot along the way in our quest for office and worship space. Our hope was that we might find an office space in the community that could also function as a small worship gathering spot until we needed something bigger. All through this process we have been praying that God would lead us to a place that would be more than just a convenient location for worship gatherings, but that the place would also help connect us more with God’s mission in the community. Explained another way: Often times a worship space becomes a building detached from the daily lives of the people in the congregation. Instead, we have been dreaming about a place that would locate us in the community in a way that would help us make connections. And this goal was part of the reason why we ran into trouble with zoning and land use issues since most of these kind of places are in busy commercial/downtown areas.
I have to admit that I was initially reluctant to consider worshipping at a “Senior Center.” I was concerned that this might create more barriers to younger generations (and it might – if we are just talking about getting them to come to worship). However, it quickly became clear to us that the Stanwood Community and Senior Center was a great opportunity! They are under the leadership of a new director, and are focused on being much more outward oriented toward the community (sound familiar?) There is already a private elementary school meeting at the Center, and the Stanwood High School football team is having their team dinners there. In addition, the Center has 85 residents that live there in independent living apartments that help meet the need for low-income senior housing. There is also relatively new low-income family housing next door. The staff is extremely warm, joyful, and welcoming and open to us joining into the many events that happen during the week.
Obviously there are many opportunities for us to serve at the Center – everything from painting to classes to helping with large social events. However, we quickly realized that the best service that we could provide is one that we are already doing – a worship service! Since our primary model for reaching younger families detached from church is through the missional communities, there is absolutely no conflict here! Older generations obviously have a much more positive attitude toward the church (generalizing here) and are much more likely to “come” to a worship service. Obviously, many of the seniors that come to the Center and those that live there are already connected to churches in the community, and we will not be trying to compete for there attendance. But especially for those that have a hard time going very far for worship, we pray that as we go to them it will be a blessing and that they will join our community for worship!
As a side note: The main part of the Stanwood Community and Senior Center building is the historic “Lincoln School” building that sits directly above the current Stanwood High School football field. Since we are a new church, it will be good to have that connection with the history of the community.
Second side note: The earliest worship experiences that I can remember in my life were with the Light and Life Free Methodist Church in Bend, Oregon. We met at the Bend Senior Center which, at the time, was about a block away from my house.