Monday, May 21, 2007

A New Hat

A new hat arrived on my chair last week while I was out of the office. The hat appeared to be a joke to me. After all, why do I need a hard hat, let alone one that says, "Pastor Donna?" I thought the hat was a kind gesture from our friends at Clark Construction, a kindness that says, "welcome to the club, we're glad to be here." I later learned, however, that the hat is not a joke but a necessity.

Two individuals came to the church on Monday afternoon to look at the sanctuary. They are looking for performance space that can be used sometime in 2008. I told them I would be glad to show them our sanctuary. We walked over to the building, entered the doors and we were about to walk down into the sanctuary when someone said, "You cannot go in there. You need a hard hat."

Something is finally happening at Mount Vernon Place. We have waited, and waited and waited. The sanctuary renovation was supposed to start last December. The contract then got hung up in CarrAmerica's sale to Blackstone and Blackstone's sale to Tishman Speyer and Tishman Speyer deciding that they did not want the church's property which, in turn, allowed the contract to go back to Bob Carr and his new company, Carr Realty Properties. Did you get that? The contract flipped and flipped and flipped again. You can imagine the impact these twists and turns have had on us. I have learned how to cuss like a developer at times. I have learned how to negotiate like a used car salesman. And I have learned that everything seems to cost more money and take more time than we originally anticipated.

But now something is happening. I have to wear a hard hat in order to enter the sanctuary! The sanctuary that was once filled with people and beauty is now empty and filled with plastic coverings and lots of uncovered wood. They are actually working on renovating the space! We've waited six months, and work has finally commenced!

It's what we want. It's what we have been waiting for. Still, now that it is finally happening, we realize that we may not be quite ready. We may not be fully prepared. There are still things to do. We have to figure out what to do with some of our pews that were in the choir loft. They are in great shape, and we decided yesterday to keep several of the shorter pews for the new building. I have then listed the 9' pews on Craigslist today. The pulpit will no longer be the central focus of the new chancel area, so we need to decide what to do with the old one. We have been packing and cleaning and selling stuff for a year, and now there is more to do! Again, it's what we want - but we are not quite ready.

This process of asking, waiting, getting, and discovering that we are not ready is a lot like prayer. We ask God for something. We continue to ask, begging for God to respond to our prayers. We wait patiently at times. We get upset and impatient at other times. We cry out. We yell. We demand. We ask nicely. God answers - in God's own time. And, we then decide that we're not quite ready. We thought we were ready for what we were praying for but we're not.

We pray for the house to sell. A buyer is identified. The contract is signed. And when closing day comes we wonder if we are making the right decision to move.

We pray for a new job. We send resumes. We have several interviews. We are offered a new position. We accept the job. We then ask everyone if they think we can really do the job. "Do you really think I am qualified for this position?" we ask.

We pray for a historic church to start growing again. The decline has been significant. There are only a few people left. "We need new people," we think to ourselves. We work hard on evangelism efforts. We spend lots of money on new brochures. Nothing works. We continue to wait and pray, pray and wait. And then something starts to happen. New people begin to come. New ministries are started. Signs of life emerge all around us. And then we ask ourselves, "What if my church changes too much? Do I really want it to grow? What if they forget about me? What a second, God, is this really what we want?"

We are now fully under construction at Mount Vernon Place. A hard hat is needed if you come into our building. It is there to protect us from any kind of debris that may fall from the ceiling and hurt us in the midst of the change and transformation that are happening all around the building. And while we do not require a hard hat to come into our place of worship, we hope and pray that the change and transformation happening there will be just as significant as the building renovation.

Be careful what you pray for. God is definitely listening.

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