May 22, 2018
Everyone at my church loves the bell. We use it to call people to worship. We share a moment of silence and listen to the bell ring. Our kids love coming to church so that they can ring the bell.
It's a great bell, and it was a gift. Over a hundred years ago, some sweet Congregationalists in New England raised some money and sent us a bell - a frontier church in a growing town needed a way to call people together.
These days we are working on a different project, because we mostly call people to church with emails and phone calls. And there are still ways we get help from fellow church folks in other towns.
We are excited about The Ground Floor. Our church is partnering with Northwest Youth Services, our excellent local organization that supports youth experiencing homelessness. We are renovating 3500 sq. ft. of unfinished basement space to provide their new daytime program space: space for youth to hang out, connect with housing case managers, shower, do laundry and connect with all the services they need to step into the next chapter of their lives!
I've volunteered at the existing daytime program space of Northwest Youth Services for a while now, to try to get to know their work. They do amazing programming in a very small space. Recently, I celebrated with a young person as she got ready to move into a new apartment after months of work! Every time I'm there, I see young people welcomed, celebrated and resourced by the awesome volunteers and staff at Northwest Youth Services. But they need more space to do their life-changing work.
We've been building momentum at church for months and were delighted to receive a $13,000 grant from the Pacific Northwest Conference Church Development Committee. Folks from the Conference love the project, and what it represents: a UCC church partnering with a community organization to share space and mission. We are thrilled to partner with a community organization that brings expertise we don't have and shares many of our values and priorities. They support our Open & Affirming practice and do their service work with a heart for systemic justice. We hope our program encourages other churches throughout the conference to build and sustain connections with community organizations and dream up new ways of partnering to build better communities and a more just world!
We are grateful for the support of the Pacific Northwest Conference for this financial gift, ways that so many of you sustain us with your prayers and wisdom and other support. I can't wait to invite you to see the finished space. We hope to open this fall!
As our sibling churches helped us call together worshipers with our church bell a hundred years ago, the Pacific Northwest Conference is helping us extend God's call today. We hope The Ground Floor gathers young people to experience a place of welcome and celebration, that the story of The Ground Floor inspires others to connect with our church, with Northwest Youth Services and with the living work of the Spirit in the world. – Rev. David Weasley, Pastor for Youth, Young Adults & Mission, First Congregational UCC, Bellingham