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God Always Finds a Home

A realtor sent notice of a “classic” Northwest Side Chicago Church building for sale described as “a charming and beautiful church” in a “prime location.” A tear formed and slid down my cheek as I read of yet another church family soon to be homeless.

It’s true, the church is more than a building, but my career as a pastor began with church buildings on every street corner filled each Sunday with the faithful. Sunday’s “Blue Laws” gave churches time exclusive for their activities.

The youth confirming their faith at LCM on May 20 enter a church world very different from the one I entered in when confirmed in 1961. What to do? Some suggestions:

Give to the ELCA Fund for Leaders. I graduated from seminary without debt because the church paid for my education. But today we are in a “leadership vacuum,” writes Charles Newman, and we need to seek and equip leaders for our beloved church. The ELCA’s Fund for Leaders invites us to make an outright gift to the fund and/or make a gift to the fund through one’s will and estate plan. The fund equips congregations in renewal efforts, provides scholarship funds for seminarians and expands ministry with youth and young adults. (For more information contact the Rev. Gabi Aelabouni, FL Director, at 800.638.3522 ext 2926 or gabi.aelabouni@elca.org.)

We have already “repurposed” our building offering its use throughout the week to a neighborhood pantry, our Preschool and the village of Carol Stream for many scheduled events. We’ve provided this service because of the countless number of members who volunteer their time cleaning and maintaining the building. Every night a different member runs the vacuum cleaner, cleans the rest rooms, scrubs the floors, and during the spring, summer and fall tends to the yard and garden. Continue this good practice.

Go green. We’ve heard Mike Benshish’s urge for us to “go green” by installing solar panels on the roof. We’ve heard Church Council members urge replacement of light fixtures with energy-saving devices. Already, we urge one another to waste less and practice recycling. We must both talk and do.

“Refuse to hire pastors who think they are incapable of fundraising or above it,” writes Donna Schaper, pastor of Judson Memorial Church in New York City, in the Christian Century. “Pastors are the ones who can lead… Make them preach about embodiment and incarnation. Get them to help you study the spiritual why long enough to become open to the imaginative how. Why bother to save church buildings? That is the most important question. Don’t ignore it by futzing with the physical details.”

Donna Schaper also urges us to “Imagine five congregations in your building.” Vail, Colorado was in need of a church building. In 1963, the Vail Religious Foundation was founded and in 1968 ground was broken for a building that is now home to six faith communities.

The church is more than a building; the religious landscape will be different in the years to come, but this I know, God will find a home. God took residency in the womb of Mary, in a Bethlehem manger, in the words of Jesus, in shared bread and wine, on a Calvary cross and within the walls of Lutheran Church of the Master.  May the confirmands affirming their faith on May 20 be blessed with eyes to see where next God finds a home.