Friday, August 10, 2007

The Kitchen Is...(Almost) Open

A couple of years ago the state safety inspector took at look at our church. He noticed that it was not "up to code" and gave us a choice. We could close the kitchen, or we could get it up to code quick. What was the problem? Well, like many old church buildings, our church was one patch over another patch over another patch. Repairs, upgrades, and maintenance were not down so much haphazardly as they were done under the supervision of a haphazard succession of people (over the course of 80 years). What this meant was that when (mythological) "brother Oswald" either left the board of trustees - through retirement, transition to another board (because the by-laws limited the time people could be on a board, aggravating the problem), or death - then all the knowledge about the status of the building went with him. Nothing was very well documented, people just did certain things, and dealt with the idiosyncrasies in the building that were the inevitable result. In a world where the standards for health and safety are low, organizations can get away with that for a long time. Heck, in this world where the standards are rather high a lot of organizations get away with it - but when deficiencies get uncovered that's it, game over.

So our kitchen needed an upgrade, and at the time Central had absolutely no money. Rather than insist that the kitchen was central to our existence of the Church, call for dozens of special offerings to raise the $10,000 or so that it would cost, or cry out against the unfairness of the government - I advised, and the Trustees agreed, that we pull the plug on the kitchen. It was a big decision, and a lot of people were really upset, but we had ministry to do and tying up a significant amount of capital into a facility we used (maybe) once a month wasn't a good idea, no matter how many people insisted it was a necessary part of being a Church.

The thing is, we didn't need it. The best year or so of ministry that I've done here at Central was done when the kitchen was closed. Here's what we did:
  • Continued Pot-Luck meals (we found the the kitchen is a convenience for these, not a necessity).
  • Held a "pizza-bash" where every family brought their favorite pizza and laid it out for everyone to share - it was a huge success and took all of 15 minutes to clean up.
  • Hosted a two day retreat of 30 student chaplains from Eastern College who ate three meals with us.
  • Held several "private" events like Bridal Showers.
  • Had two off site picnics down by the Delaware River and gave away food.
  • Opened a new nursery.
  • Started using a projector in worship.
  • Renovated the youth room.
  • Renovated the room that's now the pastor's study.
  • Started renovating a former storage closet for a 24/7 prayer room.
  • Seen at least eight people become part of the fellowship.
  • Did congregational movements on Evangelism, Pilgrimage, and Hospitality.
  • Worshiped "off site" so we could better display the Gospel to our community.
  • We'll soon be having our first baptism in three years.
  • Probably more that I'm forgetting.
Losing the kitchen didn't hurt our ministry, neither did it directly help our ministry, we did just fine without it and we'll continue to do just fine with it. That's right, a gift has been given so help re-open the kitchen, and the project is almost done - we'll have our kitchen again, and that's great. I just hope we don't ever lose our call ministry, 'cause that would be a disaster.

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