Church. There is a lot packed into that one word. Depending on your background and your experiences, the word church can either have positive or negative connotations. Some people go to church for social status reasons, some people avoid church because of perceived hypocrisy. Some people go to church and while at church they gossip and slander inside the very building where others are worshipping God. Church is a messy, complicated, wonderful thing. Unfortunately, I don't think the modern day church is what God intended for church to be and that is why Ashley and I are striving to begin a church that has a different focus and different value system then most.
River Park Grace. That is our church's name. We are a church plant branched off of our home church, Harris Prairie Church of Christ. No, Harris Prairie isn't going through a split, and yes, the elders and our senior pastor Larry have given us their blessing to begin this church. As you can tell in the name, our church plant will be located in River Park in South Bend. But that isn't the important part of the name. The important part is the third word, Grace. That is our mission, to share grace with all those we encounter. But to unpack that a bit more, we aren't going to be about the Sunday morning worship experience. We aren't going to except people to show up on Sunday, get their weekly dose of God and leave. We are going to be community focused, striving to better the River Park neighborhood by offering Celebrate Recovery meetings, a coffee shop where people can see familiar, loving faces, a safe haven for women and children, etc. But most importantly we want to offer God's grace to everyone who walks through our doors or who encounters us on the street.
Our desire is to focus on Communion Families, which are a different type of small group that will meet weekly and break bread and drink juice together to remember what Jesus did with his disciples in the New Testament. We will still have a weekly worship gathering, but our goal is to form meaningful, loving "families" outside of church that can meet the needs of those in their neighborhood and in their "family". We are striving to be service focused and in turn share God's love with those who need it most.
This is an exciting, yet scary endeavor for me. It is awesome to see how Ashley is following his dreams and how passionate he is about carrying out his plan. It is also amazing how God's hand has been at work already in this process. He has brought together 17+ adults who have an amazing heart for Him and His work to be a part of the launch team and every time we approach an issue with finances, or legal matters, we can see His hand guiding us in the right direction. The scary part for me is my insecurities of our future. With a family now, it is scary to know that our income is going to be based on us being servants to a rather poor neighborhood. However, I fully trust God will provide as we do the work we feel called to do. It is like doing a mission's trip in our own backyard, and for that I am excited!
So, that is River Park Grace in a nutshell. Ashley probably does a lot better job explaining it, so you should check out his blog for a better synopsis. I don't know how to add a link on here, so you can copy and paste his website if you want to read his blog...sorry!
Oh, and we have our first big event this Sunday. We are doing a block party for the neighborhood with a water balloon fight, music, food, etc. It should be fun and our goal is to show people that River Park Grace is a group of people who love the residents of River Park because God loves them too!