Christ’s message of death and new life plays out in congregation’s transformation
January 12, 2018
It was so loud.
Sometime in the midst of shouting to a volunteer about what was next, I realized, it’s so loud.
The music was blasting from speakers that hadn’t been used for some time. The projector was purring with images of life. The kitchen was clanging with volunteers trying to get food to the table. Children were squealing as they ran around balloons and new friends. And the adults were laughing, and laughing, and laughing.
I was startled by all the noise, because it had been quiet for so long.
For five months I had been there, walking empty hallways and cleaning up remnants of Sunday school classes that no longer were. For five months I had fought with key rings, attempting to figure out what opened what, filling recycling bins with debris from meetings that once were. For five months it had been quiet.
The building had held a large, vibrant PC(USA)congregation for 35 years. Not long ago it boasted 1,500 members. And then there was new leadership, and different direction, and rejection of the PC(USA)’s stance on the ordination of LGBTQ people. In 2014, the leadership and majority of the congregation voted to leave the denomination.
They had planned to leave with the building, but a small “stay” faction organized and appealed to Heartland Presbytery to keep the property PC(USA). With the presbytery’s support and legal counsel, the case entered the Kansas court system.
For two years while legal battles raged, faithful people prayed, the building went quiet. The “leave” group found another place to worship, but the “stay” group was too small for the building. They worshiped, learned legal words and polity nuances, and somewhere along the way they discerned the hardest and holiest lesson yet — they could not continue.
So they did something unique and brave. They called upon Village Presbyterian Church to come and do ministry. It wasn’t a plea for money and resources. It was an acknowledgement of death, and a radical hope for new life.
If I’m honest, I thought Village would say no. The paint from our capital campaign wasn’t even dry yet. But as the session and staff discerned, we got caught up in our resurrection stories. Jesus doesn’t stick around after Easter. As soon as witnesses see, he’s left the building. He’s always “going ahead of us.” So, we asked, if Christ was here as we did this last thing, where is he now?
There were prayers, and meetings, and more prayers. Village said yes, and I came, we all worked, and Church grew.
And five months later, the curse of quiet had lifted. We were beginning a week of all-ages VBS, and the building was clanging with more noise than it had in years. Our theme was “Reformation,” and 150 of us talked about and practiced re-forming as Christ’s church.
This strange satellite church planting adventure continues. God is continuing to make beautiful sounds in this place that had been broken. Which means that Christ is already ahead of us again. May we keep chasing our resurrected one, filling empty tombs with joyful noise all along the way.
Rev. Hallie Hottle, Bridge Site Pastor, Village Church on Antioch, Overland Park, Kansas
Today’s Focus: Village Church on Antioch, Overland Park, Kansas
Let us join in prayer for:
Village Church on Antioch Staff
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Holy God, help us to keep chasing you, especially into broken places. And when we find you there, show us how to repair the brokenness, and let us reflect your light of hope and new life. Amen.