By: Rev. Paul Baudhuin
Have you ever redone a room in your house? Y’know, you revamp your entry way and living room so dramatically that you hardly even recognize your own house? And then you find yourself using that space more than you ever thought you would and in ways you never thought you could?
This is what happened at Aldersgate UMC in St. Louis Park. Through the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) process, Aldersgate determined that its entry way needed to be redone. So leaders of the church began to wonder what would happen if this area became less of a pass-through space and more of a space in which you might spend some time. Plans to knock down walls began; the church would sacrifice classroom and meeting space in order to gain conversational space. A once-small, dark, pass-through area was to become a place to stop, sit, and (oh no!) perhaps even be late for worship or Sunday School.
No one knew if this would work. Was it worth the cost? Was it worth the energy? Was it worth the time? As the project came to a close, the community of Aldersgate suddenly and tragically lost a 56-year-old member. About 200 people came to grieve, pray, and celebrate a life. As those 200 gathered in this new space, and it was used for the first time, it became clear: This space was more than just space. It’s holy space—space where souls connect in grief, in laughter, and in everything in between. Today, this space is used more than we thought it would be and in ways we never imagined it could be. Sunday mornings have taken a 180-degree turn: “Education Hour” has become “Connection Hour,” as friends, both new and lifelong, sip coffee, have a cookie, and connect. Other changes have come as well, such as adding tables and relevant activities for kids in the sanctuary and a new early childcare center.
Aldersgate still has a long way to go, but now we know that, though change is hard, it is fruitful. When it’s done carefully, intentionally, and purposefully, God can get a hold of new things and use them in ways we never imagined. But you have to step into unknown waters. You have to take the hard and scary risk of saying goodbye to something you’ve loved and held dear and wade into the unknown to discover the activity of God in your midst.
So here we go, on into the future. The waters of the next new thing are no less scary, but now we know that the goal is not to cross them but simply to kick up our feet and get swept away in their current.
Rev. Paul Baudhuin is the pastor at Aldersgate UMC in St. Louis Park.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church