New Rhythm, New Location, New Name
Last night, we came together to discuss and pray over several exciting changes in the life of our community. First, I want to say how grateful I am for how we are processing all of these changes we are undergoing. Your encouragement and excitement, as well as genuine concerns and good questions, make us a better church as we move forward together.
For those who weren’t there, I want to what we discussed and some decisions that are going to affect the way we do life and worship together. I’ll be as brief as possible (for me), but I also want to give you as much context as possible around some of these momentous changes.
Our Rhythms with The Way
As I shared in an earlier letter, Pastor Bernard and I have decided to change our approach to the partnership between our churches by extending the timeline and installing some “family rhythms” so that our unity can grow naturally and consistently.
Concretely, that means we will not be “one church” by Easter of this year as we had hoped. And while our joint Easter service will not be a service that celebrates our unity as one church per se, it will absolutely celebrate our unity in Christ and in our mission to see more and more of God’s beautiful kingdom life become a reality in Oakland.
More than that, families have regular rhythms of being together. Even if it’s just once a year on Christmas, we calendar time to be with family. And because we are living into the reality of being two churches and one family, we are going to set up regular rhythms of being together.
Every 8 weeks, we will be worshipping with The Way, sometimes at our place and sometimes at theirs. And we will be actively looking for other ways to do life and ministry together as well in the future: planning a family camp, starting joint action collectives, helping each other when we’re in need, etc.
We do not have a timeline for “complete” unity (that is, financial, legal, and organizational unity), but we will trust that God in his perfect timing will grow us together like two trees reaching for the same sunlight.
Our New Location
Two years ago, when Steph and I were considering what neighborhood in Oakland to start a church in, I felt God drawing my heart toward Old Oakland. I told Steph about that, and she prayed diligently over it. But she didn’t feel any peace about us moving from our home in Temescal. Figuring God would work through our unity and trusting her times of prayer, we decided to stay in Temescal. And because we stayed, God opened up the apartment we are in now just in time for our community to grow into a slightly bigger space for our worship and community meals.
Now, as our church is growing beyond our home and also wanting to be hospitable to those who are new to church and might feel a home meeting to be intimidating, I started looking for a new and public place for our Sunday gatherings. After researching (online, on the phone, in person visits, etc.) over 30 locations in Oakland, guess where the best location is....Old Oakland! Funny how God works.
The Washington Inn is a privately-owned, 104 year old hotel in the heart of Downtown. Let me tell you why I think it is the perfect location for us to meet going forward.
First of all, when we took a survey in December about what was most important to us in a new location, we overwhelmingly said “vibe”. The feel of the space was deeply important to us. Now, here’s the thing, whether a place feels good is totally subjective and we all have our own expectations and filters for that. However, I think the Washington Inn feels like it could be our new home. It is warm and inviting with rich tones and lots of natural sunlight. The high ceilings and many windows make it feel open and spacious.
The space also has a lot of other things we value:
- Fantastic, accessible location: Centrally located in Old Oakland, 2 blocks from 12th St. BART, lots of street parking (free on Sundays).
- Promotes community: on a block with several restaurants that are open for lunch on Sundays, as well as a block away from Chinatown.
- Just the right size…now and later: Too big of a space might feel empty with groups of 15-25 people, but a space that wouldn’t feel empty for a group that size would be easy to grow out of and we might have to move again real soon! LThe Washington Inn’s meeting space has a divider that will let us modulate for our size: First a space with capacity for about 30, then 45-60, then the whole space would eventually fit 80-125.
- The price is right…and that’s remarkable: Originally, looking at their price sheet, it seemed way too expensive for us. But I visited anyway, and the manager was willing to cut the price in more than half, right in our budget! Plus he’s throwing in other helpful items (some setup and teardown, AV equipment, storage space, etc.). This will go a long way to making this a sustainable situation for us well into the future.
So when is this move going to happen?
We are shooting for Transfiguration Sunday, February 26. The Way Church will be joining us to celebrate our being in a new location!
What can you do?
Being our first gathering in a public space, this is a BIG DAY for our community! Please think and pray about who you will invite to celebrate with us and check out our church. I think you may be surprised with who might say “yes” to an invitation like that.
Also, a change like this means we’ll have to continue to be just as diligent about serving one another on the Hospitality and Word & Table teams, but even more organized. We may even need some extra help before and after services setting up and tearing down. Please consider how God might have you commit to serve in this new season.
Finally, let me share with you how I’ve been thinking about and praying over our new name.
Our New Name: Oakland Communion
After collaboratively brainstorming about 100 names in May, cutting that down to 25 and then to 6, we sent out those six names to a bunch of our friends and neighbors who don’t go to church and asked, “If you happened to find yourself thinking of attending a church, which of these churches would you be most likely to attend and why?” The responses were incredibly helpful and Oakland Communion ranked among the top responses. In this way we as a community and Oakland as a broader community have helped us name this church.
But the decision was not purely democratic. More than simply our preferences makes this the perfect name for our community.
First, of all...it’s the whole point. Creating space for our neighbors and friends to come into communion with God, and, in so doing, truly communing with each other across any lines that the world says ought to divide us….this is the purpose for our existence as a church. In that way, Oakland Communion will be a constant reminder to us of who we are.
Secondly, this name holds several tensions very well. It is creative for a church name and original. Like our community, it feels fresh. And yet it is very ancient. It roots us in a tradition that is 2000 years old on its own, and itself is rooted in the Passover meal, which itself is another 5000 years older. It’s also concrete and yet mystical. Communion is a very tangible tradition that we participate in every Sunday, and yet it is also deeply mysterious in that Jesus is present in a special way in the meal. I believe Oaklanders, in general, hunger for practices that help them touch the divine. Finally, Oakland Communion is unashamedly Christian (as communion is a distinctive Christian practice), and in that way is not bait-and-switching anyone. Some of the other names sounded like they might not be churches. However, it is also very open and approachable. One person in the survey said, “Oakland Communion seems to be very inclusive as a name for the many characters of Oakland.” Indeed we are.
Lastly, this name gives us a spiritual model for life as a church. At the very first communion, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. I’ll say more about this in the future, but for now suffice it to say that it is part of our journey as a family to understand ourselves in that bread. We are taken by Jesus, blessed, broken and given to the world so that others might find communion with God. Our name will be not just a reminder of who we are but a model for who we want to be.
I’m grateful to be on this journey with each of you. May God bless you with clarity, wisdom and peace as you process all of this change. And may God use these changes to further his ultimate justice and peace in Oakland through us.
Your pastor and fellow traveler,