It has now been exactly one year since I set up shop in a small office on 1st Avenue in Grandview Heights, an urban community just west of downtown Columbus, OH. The locals call it simply Grandview, and it is a legal jurisdiction separate from Columbus. It has its own mayor but not its own identity so far as the Post Office is concerned—our mailing address is Columbus, not Grandview; go figure. We chose the community as a potential location for a new church since it is not far from the south-most reaches of the main campus of The Ohio State University. (It also didn’t hurt that my favorite coffee house in all of Columbus is an easy walk down the street from my office.)
The office is simple, even spartan—just one room and a tiny bathroom—on the first floor of a two-story building. (In the picture shown, our office is in the southeast corner, just to the right of the entrance.) Our only neighbor downstairs is the office of the lawyer who owns the building. Upstairs are four small residential apartments. Nothing fancy, but altogether suitable as a place to work, to meet, to think, to change my shoes before walking through the neighborhood. It is a minuscule presence in the community, but it is a presence nonetheless.
The other day my landlord asked me how things were progressing toward our goal of establishing a church in the neighborhood. I told him things were going slow, but I was still there (in the office) and still hopeful. In an entire year, he had never said a word about the potential for St. Patrick’s Church becoming a reality. On this particular day, nearly a year after I moved in, he said, “I wish you well in your efforts, and I hope it really does happen.”
So do I. In fact, I hope that with an even more fervent hope than when the idea for a church in that community first came to me, more than two years ago, implanted in my mind, I believe, by God.
I have written often about my vision for St. Patrick’s Church and Ministry Center. You can read the vision in its entirety in the Prospectus (available here) and in many of my past blog posts, available in the archives (which you can access on my home page). Most recently, I addressed the subject of St. Patrick’s in a post I published on September 20. There I described both the potential and the obstacles confronting the vision, concluding that any commitment of time, energy, and money on the part of those whom God might lead to join us in this venture would be a wise investment.
Some have asked me to speak to the status of that vision in light of the fact that I am no longer actively serving as an Anglican priest, and we originally expected the new church to be an Anglican parish. That’s a legitimate concern, and I am going to devote the remainder of this post to it.
To put it briefly, the vision abides. If God is in this, it will come to pass, whether it is identified with a particular denomination or not. What is important is that the church will manifest the qualities and characteristics which I have denoted time and again in these posts: evangelical orthodoxy; intentional interface with contemporary culture; radical discipleship and a concern for peace, justice, and simplicity; and public worship which reflects a commitment to liturgical form, historical sensibility, and Spirit-led freedom.
I am not an entrepreneur. That is something else I have said time and again in these blog posts. In the past when I’ve said it, however, I’ve been slightly apologetic about it, as though it was an admission that I lacked some critical asset which most effective church planters possess. If I ever believed that, I no longer do.
I’m not ready to make the opposite case—that church planters should not be entrepreneurs. But it seems to me that the more a church planter manifests an entrepreneurial spirit, especially when it is coupled with a gregarious, extraverted personality, the greater is the likelihood that the “success” of the enterprise could mainly be the result of the effective application of marketing strategies. I have always known that, in my case, success as a church planter would be undeniably attributable to the supernatural enabling of God.
In the Prospectus which I wrote in the summer of 2011, and to which I referred above, I laid out a couple of scenarios through which it seemed possible that God might work to bring the vision for St. Patrick’s to reality. I am, of course, not opposed to God’s doing something entirely new and completely unexpected in this situation, but that is something I simply must leave up to Him. For my part, I felt I needed to use the gifts He has given me and approach the effort according to the pattern which had proven effective in other endeavors.
I made it clear in the Prospectus that one of the scenarios seemed more plausible than the other, given the realities we were confronting. What I was unable to do in the Prospectus was offer some visible, empirical evidence that the scenario I favored was, in fact, viable. I am now ready to remedy that.
About a year ago, as part of my effort to prepare and equip myself for a new phase of ministry in a new ecclesiastical tradition, I attended a three-day conference, in Durham, NC, on the use of liturgical forms and the arts in church planting. The conference was sponsored by the church planting arm of the Anglican Church in North America known as Anglican1000 (to emphasize the goal of planting 1000 new Anglican churches in North America by 2014). The setting for the conference was a store front building in a small strip mall not far from Duke University, which had been completely renovated and was serving as the meeting place for All Saints Anglican Church. In the remainder of this post, I want to summarize the All Saints story as a way of illustrating the potential for God to do something similar in Columbus.
The vision for an orthodox, evangelical, liturgical church the Durham-Chapel Hill area was birthed soon after a church of that sort, known as Church of the Apostles, was planted in Raleigh, thirty miles East of Durham, in 2001. In 2003 a few families from the Durham area shared their vision with the leadership of Church of the Apostles. As reported on the All Saints website, these families
were encouraged to continue exploring the possibilities through earnest prayer and discussion, and Apostles made the commitment to help see this dream come to fruition.
In 2004, a fund was established to gather money for a new church. In summer 2004, three “come and see” services were held at Trinity School, led by the rector of Church of the Apostles. Later that fall, a group of 15–20 people began to meet regularly for prayer and worship in (a home), earnestly seeking God’s will for a new church.
By mid-2005, after clarifying their mission, identifying their core values, and selecting a leadership team, the group took the name All Saints Church and called a founding rector (who served them for seven years, until he was recently consecrated a bishop). They began holding Sunday morning services in a hotel during Holy Week in 2006. By late summer, their core group had grown to fifty, they had moved their services to an elementary school, and they chose September 17 as the date they would designate as their church’s official “birthday.”
In the spring of 2009, circumstances required them to relocate, and after four months of major renovations, they occupied their current location on October 3, 2009. I can testify from personal experience to the quality of their work and to the suitability of the facility as a setting for worship and ministry. Here is the way the church website summarizes its odyssey of the past nine years.
The story of All Saints Church is, above all, the story of God’s faithfulness, kindness, and heart for our community. We have been abundantly provided for, protected, and loved by God. He has preserved our unity, clarified and strengthened our mission, and expanded our ministries. He has brought us a growing number of committed members whose gifts and dreams stretch us. He has taught us and changed us, answered our prayers, and filled our hearts with joy. He has met with us week after week after week, in Word, Sacrament, and Spirit. We have much to be thankful for. It’s an exciting journey to be on. To God be the glory!
I’m convinced that God can do something like this in Columbus. Please join me in praying to that end. And let me know if you want to own the vision for St. Patrick’s and become a part of the story in a more tangible, visible, and committed way.