Rector’s Comments on Feasibility Report
Our feasibility committee has done excellent work. And let me assure you, the excitement and eagerness around the whole idea of a building campaign was palpable when I interviewed with the Vestry in August.
At that interview, I referred to a catchphrase that I learned in a seminary course on religious art and architecture. The professor, an energetic Mexican Jesuit, said it over and over again: The building will always win.
Think about that: the building will always win. The building will always determine how much the congregation can grow, what kinds of events it can hold, what ministries it can undertake, which of its endeavors will be successful and which will fail.
Church of the Holy Spirit is living that reality at the moment. The sanctuary is small and constrained. The undercroft is inaccessible and unwelcoming. The office space is a mile and a half away, and so the Sunday and weekday activities of the congregation remain separated.
You know all these things; that’s why we’re having this meeting.
But when the feasibility committee met with Charles LaFond on November 28, what he reminded us of is that we have to turn that phrase around – the building will always win – we have to turn it around and see it from the other side. If the building always wins, then if we are going to build a new building, we have to decide what we want it to do, and design it so that the building lets us win at doing what we want to do.
Shall I tell you what I envision a new space doing?
I see a sanctuary that, by its beauty, fosters dignified worship on Sunday, and by its flexibility, fosters a warm welcome for Wednesday School during the week.
I see a space that allows an AA group to meet in one room while the whole parish can gather for a fellowship dinner in another room.
I see smooth floors, level paths, and broad doorways that allow someone in a wheelchair to attend a funeral, wedding, or baptism, AND the reception that follows.
I see a group of parishioners walking across the street after worship to share a meal and a board game with the residents of Bridge House.
I see a beautifully landscaped memorial garden … perhaps a stone labyrinth … that takes advantage of the tree-filled setting and provides a lovely backdrop for outdoor worship services and a peaceful resting place for those church members and loved ones who choose to be buried there.
I see our youth extending hospitality to the community by hosting events for ecumenical groups of teens and college students.
I see a festive procession winding around the worship space with banners and candles, and a lively pageant, with actors of all ages taking advantage of ample space for drama and dance.
I see a geothermal heating system that both demonstrates our commitment to caring for God’s creation and ensures that we never have to pay another heating bill, ever again.
I see a designated “Pray and Play” space, with soft cushions, books, and toys, where our smallest members can quietly play during worship and their adult caregivers can participate fully in the service.
I see a beautiful icon or mosaic lending an accent to the space and providing a focal point for meditation.
And above all, I see our “Community Life Center” beginning to truly live into its name in a way that has not been possible with our current facilities, extending welcome to the whole community of Plymouth and beyond, and becoming a magnetic part of attracting people into the community of this congregation, rather than a difficulty that must be got over before we can offer the hospitality we so deeply wish to give.
But the thing is, that’s just my vision. I’m sure that each and every one of you has your own vision for what Church of the Holy Spirit could become. And over the next eight months or so, we – the parish leadership – want to make sure that everyone’s vision has a chance to be heard.
That’s why the next step in this process is to discern what we hope and pray that CHS will become over the next several decades – because that is what we need to build for. And that vision will be incomplete without everyone’s input.
We will be formally voting at the Annual Meeting to commission the Discernment Team and establish their timeline. But between now and next fall, the whole parish will be invited and encouraged to participate in study sessions, retreats, and brainstorming meetings to share with each other what our most exciting ideas and possibilities are.
The question, as Charles LaFond reminded us, is, “What can we do that would make Jesus say ‘WOW’?”
The book of Proverbs says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Without a vision, this building campaign would most certainly perish.
With a vision – our vision – the vision of ALL of us, we will not only build a building together, we will build the foundation of a community that shows forth God’s Kingdom to the world.
We are blessed, and well positioned for this, in that much of the groundwork has already been laid in the recent Mutual Ministry review, in excellent Long Range Planning work, and in the Rector Search process. Now that we are beginning this great work together, all that can be revisited and expanded upon until we are able to quickly and simply answer the question, “What does the Church of the Holy Spirit do?”
Having the “elevator pitch” – being able to explain to a curious inquirer in ten seconds or less why this community of faith is so important to us and why we invest so much time, talent and treasure in it – will be crucial to making the case for raising the many hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the new building.
This visioning process is not one more hurdle to be gotten over before we can get down to the real work. It is an essential part of the real work. And I am very excited about doing that work together over the next few months.