A Reflection on Our Life Together
Annual Meeting - January 27, 2019
As we head into our 56th year of life together as a congregation, I am aware of a deep sense of gratitude to God for the gifts he has given us. I’ve only been with you for six of those years, but that has been long enough to observe and benefit from these gifts. The depth of our relationships with one another, a building that provides ample space for worship and fellowship, and houses our Bothell Community Preschool and various community groups, and the beautiful piece of land on which our building sits are among the things with which God has blessed us. We may not be congregation that has unlimited monetary resources, but we are nevertheless rich in the things that will sustain us and enable us to grow in and give witness to the abundant life that is available to all in Jesus Christ.
As I mentioned in a sermon series I preached in October and November, I see us as people who are poised on a threshold. God has “set before us an open door” and it is fun to imagine what we are going to encounter as we cross over that threshold and take up God’s invitations to us in the next season of our life together. As we do this, I think we are going to conceive of ourselves as more than a worshiping congregation. While worship will always be central to who we are, what we do, and how we think about our building, I think we will be growing in our awareness of how this property is not just a resource that God is calling us maintain for our own activities, but also gift we are called to share with our community.
This is not a new thing for us. You were generous with your space long before now. In fact, a few months after I started work here in 2013 I half-jokingly asked, “Does every member have a key to the place?” Openness and generosity, rather than fear and protectiveness have characterized the way you think about this place, and I thank God that I get to be pastor of a congregation of people who don’t give a second thought to how they can share this space with others who can make good use of it.
As we face into 2019 I think we are going to engage some questions that revolve around the stewardship of our buildings and land:
Our sanctuary seats about 140 people and we average about 120 people in worship each Sunday. If we want to make space for the people who regularly visit us on Sunday at 10 am, without having to wait until someone else leaves, we are going to have to face the question of how we are going to increase capacity. Do we add another service on Sunday? Maybe we think about starting a new worshiping community on another day of the week? Maybe we do nothing. They are all live options.
We are also currently without adequate space for adult education on Sundays. While the sanctuary can be used for this kind of activity mid-week, we could greatly benefit from having some kind of meeting space other than what we have in our existing building. It would also enhance our ability to offer space to various community groups? What might that look like? Where would we build it? Can we afford it? How would having this space enhance our ministry and help us fulfill our mission?
In 2018 we fenced in a big portion of our grounds to create an organic garden. We created Emmanuel Farm. Our neighbors took notice and some pitched in to help. Those six foot sunflowers screamed with the message that we wanted to do something productive with our land. Perhaps it was also a way of telling the realtors, who regularly send us letters offering to help us sell all or part of our property that we want to make productive use of our green space and don’t want to cover it with more parking or another set of condos. A neighborhood that is becoming more densely populated will value this green space. It’s a gift we can offer them. But there are all sorts of questions that we need to ask ourselves about the next steps for Emmanuel Farm. How big of a role will it play in our decisions about stewarding our land?
These are some of the questions the Emmanuel Session will be working with in 2019 and beyond. They are a part of the unknown that lies across the threshold of the open door which God has set before us. God has given us an enormous gift and we have some decisions to make about how we are going to steward it. Pray for us as we work with these questions and join us in discussing the implications of these initiatives.
Trusting in God’s Goodness to Guide Us,
Dave Rohrer, pastor