Creating Space for One-Anothering
By Rev. Cindy Marino
But today is different. Church attendance must be inspired. People don’t come to be counted, they come to be transformed. The building design must promote the mission to invite, welcome, nurture, equip and send disciples into the world. The space relevant to a visitor’s faith journey must be easy to find. The building itself must function as a warm invitation to enter and stay. When we forget what newcomers need, the building must be able to serve on our behalf and fill the gap--until we understand and live into what God is calling us to do.
The New Testament gives us multiple glimpses of what the function of church should be in the 50+ “one another” instructions.
“Encourage one another.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 “Build one another up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Instruct one another.” Romans 15:14 “Accept one another.” Romans 15:7
“Serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 “Teach and admonish one another.” Colossians 3:16
“Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 “Offer hospitality to one another.” 1 Peter 4:9
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.” James 5:16 “Love one another.” John 13:34
“Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 “Have fellowship with one another.” 1 John 1:7
How can we focus on one-anothering if we only see one another seated in rows with a view of the backs of one another’s heads? And when worship ends, we shake hands with the preacher and file out the door? How will we confess our sins to one another, pray for one another, encourage and build one another up? Is that not the purpose of the church?
We begin by rethinking our spaces and redesigning our building to reflect the purpose and function of ‘one-anothering’ as clearly outlined in scripture. Function follows form in the world of design. The current design serves a time gone by. It was a time when church was part of everyone’s life and Naperville was growing by leaps and bounds. Newcomers knew what to expect before they walked in the doors; there would be coffee "somewhere" and Sunday School for kids "somewhere." The building facilitated the needed programming quite well.
Naperville is no longer growing by leaps and bounds; that time has come and gone, but 55 percent of Napervillians have no church affiliation.* Rather than planning for growing numbers, Grace must plan for growing faith.
Please take the time to review the renderings and floor plans you’ll see as you enter the main door of Grace UMC. On Sunday, October 8, there will be another informational meeting to ask questions and share your thoughts, in the Fellowship Hall at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. If, indeed, Grace UMC is to offer the hope in Christ that has long sustained us, the building needs to reflect that offer. It’s time for Grace to come together to love another.
* Sources: US Census Bureau, Synergos Technologies Inc., Experian, DecisionInsite/MissionInsite