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By Father Chris Harris, Associate Rector and Jill Bednas, Minister of Growth and Engagement
Church development professionals tell us that one of the primary reasons people come to church is to find a sense of community – a place to belong. Biblical scholars tell us that offering hospitality to friends and strangers alike, is among the highest virtues in Holy Scripture. For much of the last century, our campus has served these complementary missions well; allowing us to offer newcomers and long-time members alike, with confidence that there will always be space at the table of our faith community. But today, the mission of the church is changing and the demands on our space are growing. While worship attendance may not have grown substantially since the 60’s and 70’s when church attendance peaked across the country, today churches are busier than ever between the Sundays!
Christ Church Cranbrook is host to well over 2,500 events each year with hundreds of those involving food or other hospitality. In addition to serving our parishioners, we are welcoming, teaching, feeding, and hosting neighborhood visitors, community partners, interfaith leaders, and a variety of civic groups multiple throughout the week. Our largest spaces, the Hospitality Center and Guild Hall, can only accommodate 100 people comfortably – which means for a congregation our size, all-parish events are a challenge at best. If you have attended the Annual Meeting, the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, or a guest speaker event, then you’ve experienced being squeezed into the Hospitality Center which inevitably gets warm and stuffy, forcing many to stand or spill out into the adjacent hallways or kitchen because we cannot fit anymore chairs or tables into the space. Large events, such as a major funeral reception or even our 90th Anniversary celebration, require us to rent space off campus.
Our Wednesday evenings are particularly challenging as our adult formation classes are growing and compete for space with choirs, bell ringers and various committee meetings. This past year, the lack of small or mid-sized meeting rooms required small groups to break out into hallways, staff offices, and even vesting rooms! On Sundays it’s not uncommon to have our classroom spaces fully occupied, again forcing ministries or groups to gather elsewhere or to find another day.
The time has come to create modern, flexible meeting spaces to better accommodate our need for classrooms, ministry meetings and community groups. Flexible space with movable dividers would allow us to open up or to divide rooms as needed so that we might serve our community and the wider community for the decades to come as we continue to live into our mission to be a ‘community center’ where all can find their place to meet Jesus, find joy, share beauty and serve others.