A building project is a good time to ask the question, ‘what are church buildings even for?’ There are a good number of acceptable answers such as, ‘the building can function as sacred space that gathers the church in their worship of God, a church building can be used for formation and teaching, a church building can be used for mission and outreach.’ A friend of mine recently planted a church in downtown Raleigh and as their space was being renovated they began to wrestle with how their building would be used. They began asking questions like, ‘what would it look like if we understood our building as an asset to the neighborhood? How could we leverage our building to connect with our neighbors that we pray might one day join us in worship?’ They began asking risky questions like, ‘What if we privileged non-members over members in the use of the space? How might we partner with community organizations to elevate and connect with their work? It’s a risky road to go down, but how might God bless that risk and sacrifice?’ For First Cary, we do believe that in this building project we are building to serve the community. As residents in the heart of Cary since 1871, how is God calling us to sacrifice and to seek the welfare of our neighborhood?
In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet instructs those that are living in exile to seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Of course, we are not exiles in the same way as those that Jeremiah was writing to, but as the people of God we are in a city that can be foreign to the values and practices of the Church. Yet we believe that God is calling us to seek the welfare of the community that God has placed us.
To be honest, this isn’t a new thing for First Cary. Several non-profits were birthed out of this church, including Dorcas Ministries and Alliance Medical Ministry. Even in our building, the pre-school is ultimately a service that seeks the welfare of our community, the Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts that gather in our space connect us to the larger community. The tutoring that takes place Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday are ways in which we seek the welfare of our community. The GriefShare programs that we offer are ways in which we seek the welfare of our community. Yet, through this building project, how might God be calling us to more? With new and renovated spaces there will be more opportunities to further partner with the community. More space and opportunity to partner with our schools, more space for the pre-school, more tutoring opportunities, perhaps more space to offer a senior day care opportunity, recovery group meetings. In renovating the space, what might it be like to have a space that the community wants to gather in? Where speakers, concerts, and community organizations seek out our space to hold their meetings. I hope to see you in worship on Sunday as we reflect together on what it means to build to serve the community.
Rev. Colin Snider