Life Together: Ecosystems, Symbols, and Spirit

Mar 2, 2021life together

You may have a vision for what is coming next. A clear “why” opens you to the possibility of new ministry and mission. Opportunities for ministry feel as though they are unfolding around you. Maybe you’ve done the relational work in your congregation and community to know your next step.

You still can’t do it alone. We certainly couldn’t.

The summer before we voted to sell our land (more on that later) we talked a lot. One conversation would lead to another. We learned how helpful it is to ask, “who else would you recommend we talk with?”

In one series of cascading connections a conversation led to the Alliance for Housing Solutions. This conversation sparked a connection with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). APAH would eventually become our development partner in Gilliam Place.

A threefold cord is not quickly broken. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Large tree with exposed roots

Our conversations were rooted in the Spirit. This allowed us to be open to others with a spirit of curiosity. Taking this with us wherever we went helped us discern where there was alignment and common purpose. APAH walked us through the pre-feasibility phase and connected us with Enterprise Partners. It just so happened that Enterprise had a faith-based initiative that supported the development efforts of churches.

Through those conversations we were able to apply for a grant that covered 50% of our cost for the pre-feasibility study. Together, APAH and Enterprise connected us to legal and project management resources. Their suggestions and connections helped us fill out the strategic partners we needed to move forward.

You might think that is enough and depending on your denominational situation it may well be. However, as Presbyterians, we are part of a connectional church. Our local congregation belongs to a Presbytery, which belongs to a Synod, which is a part of the national PC (USA). The presbytery was our connection to national resources and our partner in the development.

When we start making connections and building networks we create structures that can embrace change and withstand pressure. Braiding these partners together made our process difficult at times, but the strength in our connections helped us move forward with purpose and meaning.

No matter what people tell you, this is a long process. It begins with a pre-feasibility study to a feasibility study. It involves various approvals, due diligence, negotiations, and then some more approvals for good measure. Without the steadfast faith of our lay leaders, without the encouragement of our partners, without the support of our neighborhood Civic association, County and State governments and countless other individuals and community partners it would have been easy to lose sight of our mission.

Real estate development takes a village. It takes perseverance, endurance, and faith.

Five years. Five years after that prophetic seed was planted in a session retreat the congregation voted to sell the building and property. We had a way forward that honored the relationships and commitments we’d made to one another in our braided journey together. APAH purchased our land. The presbytery voted unanimously to approve the sale.

After the initial conflict, the conversations, the commitment to mission redevelopment, and the visioning we’d done it. Two and a half years of intentional work in the community developing partners and partnerships bore fruit. The vote of presbytery was a joyful affirmation of our vision and the long road it had taken to get here.