A Holy Site
A few weeks back some of the staff and other volunteers hosted a breakfast for the teachers and staff of the East Lake Academy of the Arts. We did this at the school on a morning when teachers had a in-service, so they were not teaching. Our purpose was just to show how much we as a church love and respect the work and calling of teachers in our community.
While we were in the school, several of us found ourselves wandering over to the cafeteria. It wasn’t because we were hungry or looking for a snack. It is more like holy ground to us. It is the place where New City East Lake held its first worship service. We continued to worship there for another year and a half.
As I looked at that room, a very typical looking middle school cafeteria, it took me back to all the Sunday mornings that we transformed that place into our sanctuary. It wasn't easy but we went after it without any hesitance or regret. We were thankful for the space and expectant about what God was doing in our midst. We were always expectant about what He had in store for us in worship--no matter what place we stood together in.
Those Sunday mornings were a special demonstration of enthusiastic collaboration. We had to “build” a sanctuary, a nursery, and youth room. This meant a great deal of coordination and cooperation--those who knew where things were stored and where they had to go; those who needed to listen to them and carry out their requests. Often on a table in the hallway, donuts and coffee would appear, and we would snatch one or the other or both as we flew by. This beehive of activity became almost a prelude to worship, an actual part of worship--the Levites were at their duties, giving God glory by making his people a good place to come and worship.
I couldn’t imagine a better place to worship either--then or now. During the week that place was full of the noise of the youth of our neighborhood. Yet not just their noise but their lives, their hearts, hearts so typically full the hopes, fears and struggles of the youth in our community. So on Sunday mornings we met there together as well. Not so different, really, than the youth. We were dreamers, visionaries, aware of our fears and struggles that would face us in the coming years. Didn’t we all have that in common? Wasn’t that something that bound us together in our need for Christ?
One year after we began worshipping in East Lake, in the Fall of 2009, the session made a five year plan which stated that during our first five years of ministry we would not seek to buy a building but would continue to rent the space we were in from East Lake Academy. In not more than a month from the time we adopted this plan we were in a position with our ministry space at the Methodist Church where we either had to get out altogether or buy the building.
As you know, we bought it. So much for our five year plan. As Bryan Holland and his little rubber sidekick Gumby said from the very beginning of making plans for East Late, “You gotta flex, baby.”