We now have a purchase and sale agreement in place for the old Presbyterian Church building in Stanwood (hopefully soon to be the new one!). If everything falls into place we will close on the property on May 15, 2015. There is more of the story to be told, but for now I wanted to post a short video tour.
New Church, Old Building? (Part 1)
The other day I received an unexpected phone call from a local realtor. He said, “the old Stanwood Presbyterian Church building is for sale or lease and I was wondering if you might be interested?” It took me a moment to process this revelation before letting him know that I would indeed like to take a look at it. You see, I was under the impression – I think all involved with Tidelands were under the impression – that there had never been an official Presbyterian Church congregation in Stanwood before! It turns out, that not only was there a Presbyterian Church founded early in the life of the Stanwood community (1906), but there was one founded on Camano Island as well (1915). I had to do some digging, but found this information listed in volume I & II of The Stanwood Story by Alice Essex. According to this same source, the Stanwood Presbyterian Church building was dedicated in July 1909 and the Rev. Mark Matthews of Seattle was involved (you can read more about his life in the book The Reverend Mark Matthews: An Activist in the Progressive Era by Dale Soden).
Before I say more about the building as it currently stands, let me share a bit about the journey that God has been leading me on. A few years ago, I did some interviewing for various pastoral positions in the PC(USA). One congregation I visited had an historic church building in a small, Washington community. The building was in constant need of repair and was surrounded by old downtown homes. After my visit I remember telling my wife, “That church wants to grow and expand but they have a building that is no longer functional for them. They need a pastor that will help them move out of their 100 year-old facility and organize a building campaign – but they don’t realize it! I don’t think that I am that guy.” At that time I still couldn’t conceive of a healthy, growing, congregation that wouldn’t need a large, modern facility with lots of rooms for all the programs. That has all changed since starting Tidelands.
In fact, two months ago at our board meeting (we call it our “Core Team” since we do not yet have an official session) I tried to share my “vision” for the kind of space that I could see us in. We have always known that our current worship space at the Stanwood Community & Senior Center would be temporary, and there have already been some Sundays where things have gotten a bit crowded. We want to have permanent office space in the community too, and ideally the two would be together in one place. However, we define ourselves as a congregation based on the missional community model. This means that our primary mode of being the church here is lived out in small, neighborhood, missional communities. This means that we don’t need a huge space with a lot of rooms for programs. We also don’t want to get sidetracked or impeded in our mission with a facility that requires a lot of time or money. So what might that space look like?
I wrestled to find the right words as I talked with our Core Team, trying to explain what I felt in my heart to be the kind of space that would mesh our mission with this community and our identity. I didn’t do a very good job! Our clerk recorded this in our January minutes as she tried to capture what I was saying: “…looking for a space with a ‘grandmotherly’ feeling like the Social Room at the Senior Center has. A space that doesn’t feel commercial and cold, feels natural and authentic, a functional space in Stanwood possibly.” While I’m pretty sure I didn’t say “grandmotherly,” I know what I had in my mind. And what I had in my mind is exactly what I saw when I visited the old Presbyterian Church building!
So back to the building: Why would we even consider an historic church building in the old downtown part of Stanwood? If you take a look at the pictures in this post you will notice that the building itself has a small entry area, one large sanctuary area, and one side-room with a small kitchen on one end that would have to function as a multi-purpose room. There is one bathroom (handicap accessible), and a small raised platform area on the side of the sanctuary (original choir loft?). That’s pretty much it. There is no property to speak of outside. The building has been beautifully remodeled (we were told that the current owners found hand-written notes in the walls from the first members of the congregation). The floors are all hardwood and look original. You can even see an outline on the floor of where the original pulpit/chancel would have been.
As I mentioned earlier, it is not the most practical building for running a lot of programs simultaneously. But, at least for now, our “programs” are our missional communities and our worship gathering. It is in our missional communities that discipleship, Bible study, prayer, fellowship, children’s ministry, outreach, and so much more take place. The beauty of this is that this only requires wiling hosts to open their home (we also have a MC starting at the Senior Center utilizing their available space). This building would give us a functional office space in the side room, but it would need to be a shared space. I could see us setting up some simple workstations by the wall, thus keeping the bulk of the room open for children’s ministry or other activities. This would create a base for volunteers and a place for me to get administrative work done. I would maintain my “study” at my house (my current office). In the sanctuary we could utilize folding chairs and tables and a folding stage. This would give us the ability to keep the room open for community events or as a rental space to earn extra income (it was most recently used as a dance studio).
Obviously, this is not a new, modern space. While that would undoubtedly create some challenges, it also does something that we have been striving for from the beginning: it would root us into the story and fabric of this community and place. And what a story! With all that is being said about the demise of the church in our society, how wonderful it would be to be able to reclaim this historic church building as a house of worship and prayer! That, in itself, proclaims the gospel in a culture where new is often better and old is easily cast aside. Thus we could proclaim a new work of God for today in an old place.
I don’t know what happened to that original Presbyterian Church. I hope to eventually be able to do some more research and dig something up. I also realize that this building might not seem “old” to those of you living on the East Coast (and especially not to those living in Europe), but in this part of the county this is an “old” building. In the meantime, it is fun to dream of what could be.
Give Me an Illustration
I’ve been working on some images that I hope will be helpful as we continue work on communicating what it means to be a church with a missional community structure. Part of the challenge is that we are still working this out ourselves as well. I got the idea for the following graphics from the “napkin theology” found on the Soma GCM site. I’ve posted some of their graphics on this blog before. They are definitely worth looking at. You can also find a free e-book of Napkin Theology by Seth McBee here.
Here are some that I have been working on:
People are often confused when we begin to talk about missional communities. We were recently asked if we were a “commune!” I have found it helpful to tell people that we are striving to be a “congregation made up of missional communities.” Though I would prefer to say that our primary mode for being the church is through missional communities, I think that only brings up more commune-like images for those that haven’t seen it. I also don’t want to say that we are a church with many “small groups” of people in MCs. The idea of what a “small group” is in the church has taken on a life of its own (often very inward-focused) and we don’t want people to think it is just a new “small group program.” So for us, the worship gathering is still our touchstone every Sunday morning for all of our MC’s (right now we only have one). We have people that worship with us that are not part of a MC yet, and some may never be (but we hope they will give it a try). But our MC’s help fill in that large gap between Sunday worship and where we live the rest of the week.
The above image is obviously just an expansion on the first, showing the inward/outward nature of missional communities. We gather together to worship as “Tidelands Church,” but each MC is focused on sharing the gospel with a different “people group” in the larger community. The focus is outward!
I stole this idea directly from Seth’s napkin theology. His is much better and you can see it here. The most simple definition of a missional community is “a family of missionary servants.” I like this because it connects us into our identity in a triune God. We have one Father so we are family. We are all filled with the Holy Spirit and are “missionaries” to those around us. We all claim Jesus as our Lord and follow him in serving others. (John 13:13-17).
Again, the above image is an expansion on the previous idea. If we know that the identity of an MC is a family of missionary servants, then we can talk about how they function. In the graphic above I’ve given just some of the activities that an MC might do as they seek to live this out together. I could add a lot more, and probably need to move a few around, but I hope it conveys the idea. People always want to know: “What does a missional community do?” Really, that is like asking: “What does your church do?” In many ways each MC functions like a mini church plant: finding creative and effective ways to share the gospel to a particular people in a particular culture. We do a lot of activities as an MC, but the things that we “do” are always rooted in who we “are” in Christ and our desire to bring the gospel to bear in all of life. This is not a program, this is living as the church!
I hope these are helpful. Visuals always tend to stick with me better than simply listening or reading. If you’ve made it this far let me know what you think.
Here we go!
Our family just returned from a wonderful two weeks of vacation! I have to say that I don’t ever remember feeling the need for a vacation quite as much as I did this summer. It has been a joyful, exciting, yet very tiring past year of our life. Last summer we were so busy trying to renovate our home on Camano Island and make the move from Marysville that we didn’t get much of a break. We had a great one week break for Spring Break, but sometimes it just takes me a bit longer to truly settle down and relax. So now we are back home and ready to launch into the fall. Kristina is already back to work (she’s a teacher) and the kids will start school next week. I start coaching fall soccer today.
Since I’m also busy writing updates for newsletter, council meetings, social media, etc., I’m going to share one of those here that may be a repeat of some information but will give people a big picture view of where we are with Tidelands. Here it is:
What a wonderful summer it has been to be living on Camano Island and starting a new worshipping community in Stanwood! Our first missional community (meeting on Camano Island) learned a bit more about “rhythm” together as we moved through our first summer of vacations, busy weekends, and late summer nights. With school out, it was more challenging to stay in touch with other families and bless the local school, so we took advantage of the location and weather and invited them to the beach! We built up some great relationships around the barbecue and campfire that we continue to pray about and will build upon this fall. In addition, we helped the PTA pressure wash and repaint the local elementary school playground and added a colorful USA map. Soon we will be helping re-launch the Watch D.O.G.S. program at the school.
This fall a couple of our MC members will be coaching soccer in Stanwood (and many of our kids will be playing on teams). We see this as yet another opportunity to meet and bless those that do not yet know the power of the Gospel. Looking forward, we are still hoping that we can help launch a “backpack” program in partnership with the Stanwood food bank that will allow elementary school kids in “food insecure” situations could take food home for the weekend. Keep in mind that all of this and more is happening through our first missional community. Our long-term plan is to have MC’s all over the Stanwood/Camano Island area blessing their neighborhoods in the name of Jesus!
Our Sunday morning worship gatherings have undergone quite a change over the summer. We ended up moving our worship to the Stanwood Community and Senior Center (on the hill above Stanwood High School). It is the historic Lincoln School Building. The facility has a welcoming staff and plenty of room for future growth in attendance. Also, our children now have a separate room to go during the preaching time. Heidi Adams has stepped up to coordinate this for us. It is little things like this that mean a lot when you are small and starting out!
Our relationship with the Stanwood Community and Senior Center is already becoming a great partnership and service opportunity for us! We discovered that there are a number of seniors living in the apartments attached to the Center that can no longer easily get out for worship on Sunday. They have readily joined us and are now an active part of our fellowship! These seniors weren’t exactly on our radar screen when we identified one of our target groups as those that “can’t “ make it to worship on Sunday (we were thinking more along the lines of those who had to work on Sunday), but they were certainly on God’s radar and the Holy Spirit has led us to them! What a blessing for us! Soon we will be repainting part of the entryway of the Senior Center at the request of the Center staff.
Our worship is still meeting every week and we are seeing slow but steady growth in our attendance. However, we continually remind ourselves that this cannot be the primary measure of our success or faithfulness in what God has called us to do. I pray every day that we will experience our first adult baptism. Please join us in that prayer as well as praying that God will lead other mature Christian leaders to help us in these early stages of development. I am especially hoping and praying for a worship team coordinator and administrative help.
We put off looking for an office during the summer as we made the transition into the Senior Center for worship, but we will be back at it this fall. We hope to find a small location in Stanwood that will give us a more permanent presence in the community.
Thank you all so much for your continual prayers and support!
Missional Community: Erasing Lines
One of the real blessings of starting a missional community is that the lines between personal life and “church” begin to blur as one seeks to live out the calling to “be the church” instead of simply “going to church.” One of the real challenges for me, as a full-time pastor, is classifying what parts of my life are “work” and what parts of my life are “family” or “personal” time. Truly, it is a beautiful dilemma! Let me give you some examples:
I’ve just helped launch the “Watch D.O.G.S.” (Dads of Great Students) program at my kids’ elementary school. The program is designed to get more men involved in their child’s education by volunteering at least one full day a year to volunteer at the school. On that day, the men provide a positive male role model for the kids by helping out in the classroom, lunchroom, recess, etc. They also provide additional security by checking doors, “patrolling,” etc. throughout the day. They can help reduce bullying by being another set of eyes and ears at the school. We launched the program last week, and already we have every available day in March filled with a volunteer Dad/father-figure!
As a dad, I believe in the value of this program. As a a dad and a pastor, I want to do everything I can to help the local school be the best, safest place it can be for learning. As a pastor and follower of Jesus who seeks to embody the gospel in our community, I want to minister to all of those kids and parents that are in single-parent families (the fastest-growing demographic in our area).
I’ve also been amazed at how many opportunities have come up to help in my neighborhood. At our old house in Marysville, it took us over a decade to build even a few substantial relationships with neighbors. I don’t know if it is just the difference of life on Camano Island, or if it is our intentionality and openness to forging new relationships, or if it is the Holy Spirit stirring things up. My suspicion is that it is a combination of all three things – but primarily the work of the Spirit! In the coming weeks I will be watching a neighbor’s child before school so that she can make her nursing classes at a community college. I’ve been able to do this with some other kids in our missional community this year. I have to take my kids to school anyway, I have a flexible schedule, so it doesn’t negatively impact my day to help in this way. I’ve been helping another neighbor with some things that he needs for his business. And there are other opportunities as well. Sometimes, just walking out to my office (in my shop) I will end up having a conversation with a neighbor walking by that will end up being more significant than I would’ve thought possible. The real power of what is happening in all of these circumstances is the timing. I can’t share details, but there are some incredibly significant things happening in some of these relationships and I believe without a doubt that it is God’s timing.
I could also talk about coaching, volunteering every week in my kid’s classroom, weekly dinners at the local restaurant, the impact of fixing up and living in a derelict property in the neighborhood, and more! The truth is, not having a “church office” to go to every morning has been one of the best things that has ever happened in my ministry! However, it is also difficult, because I feel like I can more easily justify my time as “work” when I am sitting at a desk or sitting in a meeting. It is much harder to define that time as I engage in many of things we need to do to launch missional communities.
I share this because Tidelands is moving into a different phase of our life beginning with Easter 2013. We are now looking for that office space, and perhaps even a small space for worship attached to that office space. We will begin meeting for worship every Sunday morning. More of my time will be spent preparing sermons, planning music, prayers, etc. In a way, I look forward to being able to spend more time teaching and leading people in worship – it is what I love to do and it is essential to our life as followers of Jesus. And yet, I don’t ever want to lose what I am experiencing now. I don’t ever want to minimize the importance of these other opportunities or limit my ability to engage with others where they live, work, and play. And this is why, if we’re going to do this well, we will always need our leaders and staff to be active members of a missional community.
Moving Forward and Gaining Momentum!
I feel like every day we just keep taking small steps forward and they seem to come faster as time goes on. Here are a few updates from this week:
- Grant approved! We received a $25,000 Mission Program Grant. What an answer to prayer (and a lot of hard week by our discernment team). Details here.
- Website, Facebook Page, Email (Brandon@stanwoodtidelands.org) up and running!
- Mountain View PC’s Session approved a bunch of proposals by our core team including setting up a bank account, approving Core Team members, and setting the date for our first worship gathering on Sunday, October 28 (time/place TBA)
- We had our first informational meeting last Saturday, and we have another one coming up on Thursday, October 25, 6:00 PM at the Stanwood Library
- There are some solid leads on possible spaces in the community for offices and worship gatherings. Already I’m dreaming about ways to incorporate these spaces as part of our mission in the community.
Website & Informational Meetings
We now have a website! www.stanwoodtidelands.org
I will continue to make posts to this blog – especially ideas and reflections as we move through the church development process. However, I will begin to move more of the news and announcements to the church website.
Meetings Coming Soon!
We are going to have two informational meetings open to the community and anyone interested in knowing more about what we are trying to start with Tidelands.
- Saturday, October 13, 6:00 pm (Stanwood Library)
- Thursday, October 25, 6:00 pm (Stanwood Library)
Both meetings will be in the library meeting room. We will have some snacks, share a brief overview of the plans for the new church, and have a time for questions. We will cover the same information in both meetings. Even if you are not interested in being a part of the new church you are welcome to come to find out what we are doing. If you have questions please email Brandon@stanwoodtidelands.org.
I’ve officially transferred over to my new position as “organizing pastor” of Tidelands. It is nice to finally be dedicating 100% of my work time to setting up this new ministry. I’m beginning to realize just how much of my office resides in boxes at the moment! I feel a bit homeless after having an office to go to every morning for the past 14 years, but that is not necessary a bad thing. I’m also experiencing a bit of the same overwhelmed feeling I had when I first experienced the freedom of my youth ministry position at Mountain View (“here is the job: now go for it!”). I had built up a bit of a routine and schedule in my life of ministry that became quite comfortable and now I’m starting from scratch again.
So far I’ve been able to spend a lot of time getting to know the Stanwood/Camano community better. I’ve been searching for a good place to hold our informational meeting and I’ve discovered that there aren’t many (any?) restaurants with meeting rooms around the area. Kristina and I are beginning to wonder where sports teams go when they have their end of season parties! I’ll have to ask my soccer team parents that questions this week. Right now it looks like the library meeting room may well be the way to go.
Today as I was driving around and dropping in at different places I realized just how much I am already falling in love with this community and these people! It has a lot of small-town friendliness mixed with tourism, commuter life, island life, and quirkiness. This is a good place to land and raise our kids. I am so grateful to God for leading us here and I can’t wait to begin blessing this community with the love of Christ! In the meantime, I need to try to get some floorspace cleared out in our shop bedroom so that I can set up a desk and unpack some boxes!
Tidelands – What’s Next?
Many people have been wondering what the next steps are for Tidelands now that I am ordained and will be moving into the “organizing pastor” role full time. Right away I will begin setting up a temporary office at our Camano Island home since many of the early steps in the church planting process will involve administrative work (setting up financial accounts, contact information, advertising, meeting times, website, etc). I realize this isn’t the glamorous stuff of church planting, but it will need to be done! I will also be trying to set up meetings with the many leads that I have with people in the Stanwood/Camano Island community. I’m very excited to be able to spend my days entirely in the community and to get to know people better! This is the exciting part of church planting! We delayed the “informational meeting” in the community until my job transitioned, so I will also be helping to set a date and location for that meeting.
Our discernment team has begun the transition into a missional community and we will also be setting up our “core leadership team.” Our primary focus will be on getting one missional community up and running. Already we are meeting people from the community that are interested in being a part of this group, but it will need to remain small to start. I will be working on learning more about what it means to lead a missional community and trying to set the foundation with this first group so that we can multiply quickly and train new leaders. Because we have sensed God leading us in the direction of missional communities the process may appear slow from the perspective of traditional new church development. We will only be having worship gatherings once a month at the beginning so that we can put most of our effort into building the missional communities. This will take time; there is no way to shortcut the process of building relationships and reaching out to those that do not yet know Jesus.
For those of you that are just dying to locate our new church community in a place, you will be thrilled to know that in the coming weeks we will also be looking for a building to lease for our worship gatherings. It may be a school, a storefront, or other suitable semi-large space. As funding from grant and other funding begins to come in we will also start looking for a suitable office space to lease.
Of course, now that I have written all of this, I expect that the Holy Spirit will shake things up a bit. For me, there is no greater joy than anticipating the next wave of the Spirit and feeling the push and pull in new directions. Please continue to pray for us as we get started.
It’s official! The session of Mountain View and the Executive Board of North Puget Sound Presbytery have both approved our discernment team’s plan to start a “daughter church!” (if you want the plan details, check out the links below the picture at the top of this blog). We are calling this new faith community “Tidelands,” and it will be located in the Stanwood/Camano Island area.
This is the result of a lot of hard work and prayer by many people! It is going to be exciting to see how God uses Tidelands to advance the work of Jesus Christ in the world. The next step in the process will be to have an informational meeting in the Stanwood area on September 17 (location TBA). Also, I will be examined for ordination at the September 12 meeting of the Presbytery of North Puget Sound in order to become the “organizing pastor” of the new church. You are all invited to join us for the ordination service here at Mountain View on September 23, at 3:00 PM. Please continue to lift us up in prayer as we move forward.