For Easter in 1914, a photographer made this panoramic image of the congregation at West Park Christian Church in Indianapolis.
On Sunday, armed with my new iPhone that automatically takes panoramic shots, I tried to reproduce the scene. (Click either photo to see it larger.)
Much has changed at West Park Christian Church in 98 years. In 1914, it was a large congregation in a new middle-class neighborhood. Today, it is a very small congregation in an impoverished, blighted neighborhood.
This is where my sons and I have decided to be a part of the family of Christ. The pastor here was an associate pastor at North Liberty Christian Church, where I attended while I was going through my divorce. He counseled me often during that difficult time. After we didn’t fit in at the big suburban church this summer I decided to take my boys here one Sunday just for a visit. But we were so welcomed, so obviously wanted, and so quickly included, that we simply decided to stay.
By any demographic measure, my family should have been at home in the big suburban church. Yet somehow we weren’t. The group at West Park is harder to demographically categorize; it is truly a diverse congregation. Yet somehow we plugged right in. I think there’s a faith lesson in there somewhere.
The pastor at West Park calls this an “urban mission” congregation. When Jesus sent his disciples to spread the gospel, he told them to first heal the people of their sicknesses (Luke 9:1-2). I think Jesus did this for two reasons: someone who’s sick is preoccupied with it and can’t hear the message of Christ, and delivering that healing demonstrates Christ’s love for us. Many of the people in this congregation’s neighborhood are sick, at least in a broad sense; they hurt in some way. There is much work to do here to show them Christ’s love and attract them to him.
For now, I’m just getting to know everybody and become fully a part of this family. In time, I trust the part God has for me in this mission will become clear. I look forward to serving here.
(It doesn’t hurt a bit that this church is steps away from the old National Road, by the way. Longtime readers know how much I love the National Road.)
Love paves the way to Christ. Read that story.