An exciting time
This is an exciting time for our Circle of Hope that meets at 1125 S. Broad St. We just sent 70 partners to Northwest Philly to plant a new congregation there, and those of us who stayed are feeling our newness as a people. Who are we now? What’s our local opportunity? How is God leading? I’m discerning three answers to those questions.
First, we have the opportunity to create community in a burgeoning area that desperately needs it. Thirty-four percent of the millennials in the city live around the Passyunk area. Many are conscious, ambitious people who want to enjoy life and change the world. Their friends in the single-occupancy apartments of Center City and universities of West Philly have similar values. But they’ve been trained to do it mostly alone, or with the remote connections that come from social media and affinity groups like Meetup. It is no wonder to me that psychologists are seeing rising rates of depression, anxiety, addiction, and loneliness in younger people.
Everybody seems fine over nachos at the Cantina (or better yet, Bobby’s watermelon and feta salad at Opa.) But we know the struggle, and are finding life in Christ in covenant with one another. We’re coming together now in new ways—organically, as people—and I think that will lead us to open our doors to new friends. The church offers a vital alternative to the individualistic economy. What the alternative looks like in real time and place is our real lives…inviting people over for brunch or Game of Thrones, calling up the new friend you met at the dog park, forming porous cell groups that meet weekly to share life and include. The community we are creating is more than just a church meeting—it is going with the instinct to be transformed by the grace of God. Our transformation will naturally flow out in healing ways around us. That could look like job creation, more good business, more compassion teams that are doing any number of good works around the city. The possibilities are endless.
Secondly, I think God is leading toward regular, incremental sharing from all of our partners. I’m not really interested in being floated by the few people among us who make over six figures. God bless them! But it diminishes any of us to not share anything at all. The social workers and artists and laborers and teachers among us are essential to the mission, too…on every level. We are not tiny in spirit, and the little bits that we have to offer get bigger together. We are creating something beautiful together, and I think it will take all of us to do it.
Lastly, we may want to invest in a meeting space in our neighborhood. We’ve been renting for the 11 years we’ve been here, and God has been faithful. We multiplied twice during that time and have maintained our flexible and humble approach to incarnation. Now that we’re getting priced out of the rental market, it makes sense to look at buying if we want to stay planted. Our local next site team is doing research and considering options. I am excited by the prospect of getting to know new neighbors, and having Circle Thrift take off if we can get them out of the basement and into a store-front.
I had a dream on retreat with the pastors last week that they keep telling me I should share with you. I dreamt that I had just given birth and was bleeding heavily. (This happens). I felt a lot of loss. And then God reminded me that when you are pregnant your body makes extra blood to sustain the additional life. The blood that I was losing wasn’t necessary anymore. The baby was born and doing well. I was free to run again.
I think the message for us who form Circle of Hope South Broad is that we can run now with what God is giving us. We were lumbering around as a big community for awhile because we were creating an extra life. That stretched us in beautiful ways. But now we are free to run again. We have amazing partners in a prime location at a prime time. God may have prepared us for just this moment. Let’s see what we can do together.