FOUNDRY's First Year of Ministry: Lessons God is Teaching Us
By: Val Sachs
FOUNDRY’s Thanksgiving worship service this year was a dual commemoration. First, and foremost, we gathered to express gratitude for all that God has given us – as individuals, as families and as a new faith-life community. Secondly, we celebrated one year as a brand new congregation in East Chula Vista!
That Sunday in November, it was mind-boggling to look around our sanctuary and remember that not long ago, this place had been an empty warehouse. The cold, high ceilings that once created only echoes, had been replaced by Russ Tsuchida’s imaginative chapel-like design that actually inspired introspection, prayer and meditation. In the front, a blank, cement wall had been transformed into an altar where a simple cross now hung reminding all who entered of a savior’s sacrifice. The area that had once housed business offices now was a Community Space, where families shared coffee and pastries after church or studied the Bible during the week.
So we worshiped the only way that made sense to this family of faith on that special Sunday. We gathered around a huge, family table that spanned the length of the sanctuary and we shared God’s blessings with each other. We served one another communion and we pledged ourselves anew to FOUNDRY’s ministry as we began Year Two.
A lot of books have been written about how to plant a new church. There are gurus and coaches, game plans and guides – many of these have been helpful in FOUNDRY’s formation. Pastor Christian has been mentored by Godly men and women – both inside, and outside the United Methodist structure. Partnerships with Foothills congregants have been crucial in the initial success of this church and God has provided committed churchgoers from Chula Vista who have stepped into leadership positions. Even with all this expert input and advice, we find God has loving guidance and new lessons to teach this fledgling faith community.
Here are just a few of the spiritual (and not so spiritual) things we have observed in the past year:
- God’s strength really is made perfect in our weakness. When we have humbled ourselves and shared our needs, God has always provided. We hadn’t planned on asking for someone to donate an audio-visual system for our sanctuary, yet when we told Don and Dot Jenkinson of our need, they stepped up and said, “We will do that.” God provided through them.
- We should never lose sight of God’s promise that “where two or more are gathered in my name, I will be there.” Though there have been times when we have hoped for larger crowds, some of the most meaningful connections we have made in our community have been one-on-one or in small groups. 300 people at a community movie night is gratifying; but a heartfelt faith discussion over a cup of coffee is a powerful reminder of God’s plans…and how they may differ from ours!
- Speaking of our plans, (and one of those not-so-spiritual lessons) the first week you lay down new carpeting, you can plan on at least one coffee spill and at least one child throwing up on it!
- God’s design that we be the “body of Christ” with many members is a discipline that takes daily practice. In our eagerness to serve God and others, it can be easy to take on too much – try to be all things to all people. When others have been invited into leadership and felt a personal stake in the church’s ministry, great things have happened! Take for example, Jerry and Angie Marcu. Jerry went from stopping at the church out of curiosity one day on a bike ride, to creating our wildly successful “Banjos & Brunch” event featuring his bluegrass/Christian band. His wife Angie is a regular worship music leader on most Sundays and plays an active role in choosing and introducing new songs to the congregation. The body of Christ in action!
- Be flexible! In FOUNDRY’s Community Space/Narthex, the original plan was to have a sitting area that mirrored a coffee house atmosphere. Using a donated glass table, candles and modern, black leather chairs, a corner was dedicated. As new families to FOUNDRY expanded – by having babies – this space quickly evolved into a nursing/comforting and toddler area where parents could still hear the sermon and tend to their children. Our glass table was replaced by a bright green plastic table from IKEA and the black, leather chairs were moved to make room for baby swings and mini-jumpers. It isn’t what we envisioned – but God’s plan for this space was better than ours! Now, when families come to our front door, they see a welcoming space for their children – front and center. We still have room for the coffee house tables, but they are to the side, and secondary to the safety and comfort of the children in our care.
As year two begins, there are surely new truths to be learned. Being teachable and willing to listen to God’s direction is our fervent prayer for FOUNDRY leadership. Please continue to hold this tender congregation in your prayers as well. God has heard – and answered those prayers in our first year. We are grateful!