North Liberty Christian Church and Bethel United Methodist Church have been neighbors for a very long time. For more than 150 years, the two churches stood about three quarters of a mile apart on the same road in Pike Township, Marion County, Indiana. Check out this section of an 1855 plat map that shows both churches.
I know that North Liberty Christian Church met in a succession of log cabins in the 1800s; I assume Bethel’s history is similar. Bethel built its brick building first, completing it in 1905. North Liberty built its brick building in 1909. Both churches later built larger, more modern buildings. While North Liberty’s 1909 building was razed to make way, Bethel’s 1905 building still stands.
When officials at Bethel learned that we at North Liberty had sold our building and were worshiping in a couple cramped hotel conference rooms, they offered to rent us their old sanctuary plus a room for our children’s ministry at whatever price we were paying for the hotel. We took them right up on their offer. It was a win-win for both of us, giving us much more room for our services and helping them pay for a family life center they had built. Here we are inside, preparing for worship on a recent Sunday.
This little sanctuary is remarkably bright inside for being lit by only four meager lamps. The stained glass windows, especially the large ones on the west and south sides, let in a lot of light.
Except for those stained glass windows, this room is understated. None of the details call much attention to themselves.
Even the pattern in the tin ceiling is gentle and quiet.
It all conspires to make the stained glass windows stand out even more.
When we left our old building last February, we thought we might be in our new building by now. Much has been done, including clearing trees, laying hardpack for the parking lot, and doing considerable drainage work. But while this was going on, we were getting quite an education in how the city works. They’ve placed several barriers in our way, and clearing them has cost us time and money. When we started this project, we had enough money to cover it. These unexpected expenses have caused us to seek financing. That has led to more delays. Now it’s too cold to lay the building’s foundation. The soonest our builder will do that is April. The soonest we could be in our new building is August.
The delays have been frustrating. But the time we’ve spent as nomads has been good for us, helping us to gel as a group and, for some, to heal from past difficulties in our congregation. We are starting to think that in God’s eyes, the building project that really matters is done. We are starting to think that we shouldn’t wait for our new building to resume our outreach. God has given us everything we need right now to do his work in our neighborhood.
My church has seen it over and over again – when God wants something to happen, it happens. Like the time we had a rock concert.