8/15/2021: Some of the information from today’s minute for mission comes from the online Presbyterian Mission yearbook. It’s a story of how a very small congregation in a very big building put their trust in God.
Eight years ago, the Reverend Jeff Kane and his wife moved from Colorado to Tennessee, to be closer to their grandchildren. But the only church in the Middle Tennessee Presbytery that was seeking a pastor was small…very small…15 people small. Yet the members of Westminster Presbyterian were determined to hire a fill-time pastor, spending the endowment money they had.
The tiny congregation’s first step was to look at the size of their huge building from a new perspective. Kane said they realized it was “not theirs, but God’s,” and they needed to put it to use. A huge Baptist church was undergoing renovations, and Westminster invited them to share the space, the “pews and parking spaces,” with shared conversations between the two services. When the Baptists moved back to their church, the Pentecostals said they were also in need of a temporary space and shared time between services, exposing both congregations to a very different points of view.
Five years ago, the Pentecostals and Presbyterians started talking about how to help homeless in the area and they began to pray and search for a purpose. When a couple came to the door on Memorial Day asking “Is there any room at the inn?” the two groups turned empty classrooms into “Room at the Inn.” They invited area experts to staff the inn, and guests began joining the congregational worship. The church developed a reputation for being open and accepting. The community began to take notice and the local Rotary Club helped with the project.“We had silver-haired Presbyterians sitting next to purple-haired teens,” said Pastor Kane.
Two years ago, “Room at the Inn” ministry moved out of the church and into a local motel, becoming a non-profit with its own volunteer staff. And Westminster now has 70 members, still committed to sharing their building and being faithful to the gospel of serving others. “I give this congregation credit and God the glory, because never once did I hear them say ‘we need children’ or ‘we need to fill the pews.’ Survival was never about attendance numbers or money. It was trusting that Jesus is Lord,” said Pastor Kane.
At Covenant, we don’t have a huge building or a financial endowment. But we are trying to re-imagine our church and land as “God’s property,” to be used to help others. Head Start preschool classes fill our back wing during the school year, and they’re expanding to share the nursery space with us starting this fall. On Sundays, we share our sanctuary with a small Hispanic church. SnowCap has rented our back lot to build a desperately-needed clothing center. And we are seeking more ways to put this space to use.
Mission isn’t just one Elder or one committee. It’s all of us, looking for ways we can join with others outside of Covenant, to do God’s work in our community.