That week they gave us a church

I imagine that someday in the distant future, hopefully on a cruise ship in the mediterranean, Kel and I will sit reminiscing on the events of this week.

“Hey baby, remember that day when they handed us the keys to an entire church?”
“Yeah, that was madness. It’s a good thing God showed up because wow were we clueless.” (Dear United Methodist Conference of West Michigan, I assure you we’re not TOTALLY clueless but I think our future selves will see us as such)

So that happened this week, Kel’s official start day was this past Wednesday, it’s finally here!  He’s officially full time on this church planting gig.  And yesterday after being given the keys to the building, we pulled up to this huge old church and walked right in, because we live there now. Not really but surely it’s going to feel like it before long.  

Just to recap, Kel has now become the lead pastor of a church replant in downtown Grand Rapids. There has been church in this building for over 100 years but the conference decided to close it down because they had lost touch with the community and were down to 12 in attendance.

And there still won’t be church there for a while, there’s a lot to be done between now and launch in October. Like we need a name and a website and a logo and oh yeah… some people who are in this with us.

You may wonder, what is he/we responsible for? The answer to this is currently everything. He’s the point person on the redesign, staffing, mission statement, vision for different ministries of the church, just all of it really. We have a budget to hire out big projects and we’ll be bringing in mission teams to help us with some of the work but, right now it’s overwhelming and exciting and crazy…. and crazy.

There is an oversight team in place now and they will meet with Kel monthly and advice on bigger decisions, so fear not.  All the power will not go to his head.

I’m really praying that soon we won’t be in this alone, that a launch team will become interested in what we plan to do here.  But for now, it feels like it’s just us.  Yesterday during a mold inspection (fun!) the mold guy asked us who all went to this church.

“Um, right now just us.  But not for long, that’s going to change!”

This brings me to my next question, would you like a tour? Because I’m dying to give you one.

Welcome to the Sanctuary, we have several different ideas in mind for it, we want to modernize it some (new sound system is non negotiable) and we’re toying with the idea of somehow cutting a center aisle for weddings.  We are definitely getting rid of the dated can lights and the red carpet. I think we will keep the pews but I’m still not sure.  Don’t worry we’re not going to make it feel too trendy.  Think Old meets new.

We have a designer coming in on Wednesday to give us her take.  Thank God and Jesus and the Saints in Heaven, we need this.

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IMG_1272Gorgeous Stained glass windows aren’t going anywhere.

We have a designer coming in on Wednesday to give us her take.  Thank God and Jesus and the Saints in Heaven, we need this.

Amen.

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View of the Sanctuary from the front right corner of the church, isn’t it pretty!  Some words on the balcony: It feels a little rickety up there but I’m assured that it’s sound.  This may be because I’m 100% certain that one of my kids will fall off the front before we open.

The chairs are the original wooden, wrought iron ones from 1906.  I think we might sell most of these because I worry with todays bigger butts they’ll die fast.  Also we’re told they’re worth a lot. Maybe we will keep some for the office waiting area or something?

Note the sound board we currently have, there it is on the square table, get a magnifying glass if needed.

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Sanctuary Selfies!  Is that a thing?  I hope not…

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Kel’s new office, complete with hanging WWJD air freshener.  I think he wants to paint in here but I am wondering if there isn’t a way to get something going with a mid century look.  We shall see.  I know he wants a standing desk and some chairs but that’s as far as we’ve gotten.  Oh and he got a Doctor Who clock for Christmas so fear not, it won’t be TOO classy.

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Stained glass window, You’re in! Sponge paint, you’re on notice my friend. Give it up, go back to 1992.

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This is what I’d call the Narthex.  The room in-between the doors and the sanctuary.  This will be a welcome area and needs an update. Badly. Have I mentioned how much I love the red carpet?  No?  It’s because I do not love it at all.

I think some walls are coming down to open up this room to the sanctuary.

Now let’s go up a level, shall we?

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Gorgeous old piano I have plans for you, and they don’t all involve letting my four year old bang on you.

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Hi Mold!  You definitely don’t get to stay.  You shall be the first to go.

What happened was that there was a roof leak that was fixed but the interior damage wasn’t properly taken care of.  This is on the top floor of the attached second, newer building, build in the 1960s.

This portion of the building needs the most work and will be farther down the list on priorities as there is so much space in the rest of the building that can be used and needs less work.

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A huge, opened up classroom upstairs, there are at least 6 classrooms up here so we will have plenty of space to spread out as people and money allow.  This one is in the best shape.  I really want to get rid of the tile and we are thinking about carpet squares because they can be removed when children inevitably do their worst to them.

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This sign just made me smile, I love it.

It gets me crazy excited about the little feet that will run down these hallways, excited to hang out with people who are excited about the love of Jesus.

Excited.

Now let’s go downstairs two floors, shall we?

 

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Here we have the fellowship hall, which is huge and currently the only part of the building being used at all.  It’s always set up like this because a Native American Seniors ministry is feeding people here twice a week.

This room will be getting an overhaul for sure, I’d love to do faux brick stuff or something with the floors to make it seem less industrial and a LOT warmer.  I’m thinking it would be nice to get it to a place where people would want to host family parties and small receptions here.

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My favorite asset?  This commercial grade kitchen. Complete with dishwasher, 12 burner gas stove, two fryer baskets, a commercial fridge and freezer.  #yayfood #peoplelovefood

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And here is what it looks like when someone throws a temper tantrum in the stairwell, had to be included in the tour because? Reality.

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Here we have our neighbors, the um… “adult store.”  I think they might have a theater of sorts.  We literally share a wall with this building and they have more prominent frontage than we do.

So here we are, it’s all started now guys. The one thing I keep reminding myself as my idealist self thinks through this building is that as much as function and design and coziness matter…. they don’t matter that much.

What will bring this church to life isn’t the carpet or the walls or the welcome desk, it will be the people who come in, stand alongside us all looking for more of a God who seems elusive sometimes.

A God we miss in the business and the fray.  A place where we can bring our raggedy selves to take a deep breathe and go: “That’s right, this is what it’s about, God’s got this whole thing, why was I so crazy all week long?”

At least that’s what I’ll probably say, until hopefully I grow until a better rhythm. I am a pastors wife now, after all.  Wife to a pastor of a church with no name and no members, for now.

But that’s all going to change, can you feel it?

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  • Beth

    This is so exciting! What an incredible space you have to work with. A co-worker did a $20 Ikea hack to give himself a standing desk. Doesn’t look mid-century modern but I wonder if Ikea would have something that would? Assuming that’s what you meant…. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never been part of a church plant and it sounds exciting.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thanks for the reminders on Ikea Hacks! I almost forgot the Ikea factor completely. I can see us making SEVERAL runs there and I will google the standing desk and send it along to Kel!

  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    Oh my goodness, you have so much wonderfulness there to work with! I might be drooling over the kitchen, for years we prepped food for 80-100 people every Wednesday night out of what was essentially a glorified home kitchen with 2 old, donated stoves with only half the burners working, a bunch of roasters and 2 home sized fridges (only one of which had a small freezer). So what you’ve got right there? Marvelous blessing.

    I am aghast that you do not love the sponge paint and the red carpet. 😉

    Can’t wait to see what you do with the physical space, as well as what God will do with the church plant.

    • Kel “The Kel” Penny

      At our college ministry we fed anywhere from 120-200 college students every Thursday. We didn’t cook every week, but typically 2-3 times per semester. When we did? Galley kitchen. One stove with oven, and about 5 feet of counter space. We have felt your pain…

  • Pam Worcester

    I love it! Brought back so many memories of our first church plant and remodel of a building that had been unused for several years. Such an exciting journey – one that has a roller coaster of emotions for sure. Praying for a great ride for the Penny family!

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thanks Pam! Keep it up with the prayers and checking in! I know you have oceans of wisdom here.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    So cool. If anyone’s up to the task of pulling up some red carpet and updating the decor, it’s you friend. Exciting new chapter!

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you! I very much needed this vote of confidence!

  • Lisa K

    I can’t wait to see it!

  • Mark Allman

    I like what you have to work with there. I like all the wood.