Love Thy Neighbor(hood)
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” Zech 8:4-5
As one travels the streets and highways around Seattle, one cannot help but notice the vast number of cranes and construction projects around the city. The rapid development occurring throughout the Emerald City has made the city wealthier in many ways, but it has also made it difficult for families and communities to have a sense of “place” that tethers them to a particular area. This is true of congregations in and around Seattle that are largely “commuter churches” where members travel to a location for worship, while living and working elsewhere in the region
This commuter dynamic makes it increasingly difficult for worshipping Christians to have local or “parish” mindset regarding the neighborhood where their church is located; the dislocation of a worshipping body from its local context can often leave the parish without a Christian voice and presence to intersect with the life of that given neighborhood. This trend can certainly be seen and felt in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, where residents, business owners and faith communities find themselves in one the area’s fastest growing neighborhoods.
Yet in the midst of a myriad amount of construction projects, there are wonderful ministries dedicated to the South Lake Union community, and encouraging stories of God’s faithfulness to help commuting congregations have a life-giving, local impact in their neighborhood of worship.
A recent church-plant to South Lake Union, A Seattle Church, worships in the Denny Park Lutheran Church and is pastored by Tim Gaydos and Tyler Gorsline. The congregation is similar to many in the city that desires to glorify Jesus and serve the city, wherever God has placed them. However, that has not kept the leadership and congregation as a whole from prayerfully and powerfully serving their immediate neighbors.
Located directly across form their place of worship is the first and oldest park in Seattle, Denny Park. Eighteen months ago this was a location where there was drug activity, assaults, and concerning activity for young children and families to be around. Without putting too much “ministry philosophy” into it, A Seattle Church, (ASC) began hosting games and family oriented activities in the park to interrupt the chronic deviant activity. By God’s providence, Pastor Tim serves as a chaplain to the Seattle Sounders which prompted him and ASC to partner with the team for a soccer clinic among other activities over a six-month period—all of which created a more positive energy in and around Denny Park.
Unfortunately, due to some internal restructuring and the park’s issues, Seattle Parks and Recreation decided to suspend the park—but not before City officials approached Pastor Tim and ASC to become stewards of Denny Park as plans are being made for its renovation. By what could only be a move of God, A Seattle Church and its leadership have served as conveners of a transformative effort between the City of Seattle, Vulcan, Whole Foods, Compass Housing, the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce and others to bring about Denny Park’s renovation.
Out of the partnership spearheaded by A Seattle Church has come increased lighting to the park, a formal Board to steward the park, and a renovation plan that includes the grand re-opening of Denny Park on May 6th. Additionally, A Seattle Church’s neighbor is a low-income housing development stewarded by Compass Housing and Denny Park Lutheran. Pastor Tim pointed also to the budding partnership between Compass and ASC in order to do three upcoming family events at Denny Park.
Suddenly, the words of Zechariah 8:4-5 reverberate through the mind, as a vision of intergenerational play and celebration returns to a hurting part of the downtown area. All of this because of God’s power shown through a congregation willing to work for the goodwill of their parish—in partnership with individuals and institutions that may never name Jesus as Lord.
When asked about how this unforeseen opportunity has impacted the congregants of A Seattle Church, Pastor Tim remarks how it is not about a strategic plan, but about learning to be present and faithful.
“I can get up and say ‘We need ten people to do [fill in the blank]”, and I can consistently point to an action for those that need clear marching orders. All of this leads to greater awareness among our people [of our local area of service].”
Such opportunities could not have been anticipated in the mind of a couple church planters and a congregation of families and individuals stratified across the Seattle area. No, the laughter and play of young and old at Denny Park this spring is evidence once again that the Lord keeps his prophetic promises, and will surprise his people when they are willing to commit themselves to loving service within their local community.
Images by City of Seattle Website. PHOTO BY TIA INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY