All Are Welcome: Building Community
St. John’s Capital Appeal Narrative 2013-2016
St. John’s Lutheran Church is, indeed, building up our community. In this current season of renewal, we are sharing our faith, talking about what it means for us, and inviting others to join in relationships. We are unbinding our hearts in caring small groups. We are serving our neighbors: near, in local initiatives like the Care Closet; and far, in adventurous mission trips to places like Minnesota and North Dakota. We are gathering youth and their friends together for prayer and support. We are growing our worship gatherings to welcome more and more people as guests and members.
The people of St. John’s have been building each other up for years. Almost 80 years ago, we Lutheran Christians in Evansville, WI, wanted so badly to build a community of faith that we started meeting in City Hall. Soon enough we came home to a St. John’s building of our own, located on the site of the current post office. After 20 years, the walls were being stretched and the flooring was ready to fall in. A new place was needed in which to build community.
So our community dug deep. In 1957 the congregation dug into our resources and dug into 5 acres of new ground on South Third Street. The result was a beautiful prairie-style building, recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The building provides us a place to connect with each other, often over a cup of coffee. The sanctuary allows God’s light to shine in on us as we worship together. And the wide windows allow us to see outside to the neighbors we’re called to serve.
By 1970 we’d built up our community enough to need to add on to the facility. Fellowship and education spaces were built. In wonderful new ways these spaces allow us to keep building relationships with God, each other, and our neighbors.
This, after all, is our mission. We are reaching up (to God), reaching out (to neighbors), and reaching within (to each other) to build community. God has first built a relationship with us through Jesus Christ. As God is building us up to be God’s people, we “build up each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)) to trust God and do God’s work in the world.
In this journey of building each other up, we have once again come to a time to care for our physical building. Buildings help us to do God’s work of building up God’s people. This is our time to dig deep and build for the future. We are preparing our building so that we can better serve our mission of building relationships. We strive to be a people of inspiration and invitation, whose faith matters in our lives and whose hands do God’s work. A building that is hospitable, inviting, relevant, and inspiring will shape us to be the people we want to be. As we enhance our building, we’ll also recommit ourselves to serving our wider community, designating a portion of appeal gifts to building up youth and caring for those on the margins.
God is doing great things with St. John’s Lutheran Church. “We are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9); God is building us up so that we may build up one another and the community around us. Let us build a house and build a community in which all are welcome…welcome to build relationships with God, each other, and our neighbors.
As the words from the ELW hymn #641 All Are Welcome  (click for entire text) declare:
“Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live.”
Let us be a people that embrace one another and offer rest and solace in friendships.
“Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine, and wheat.”
Let us be a people that grows in faith toward God and dwells on the inspiration of God’s word.
“Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the word and stone.”
Let us be a people whose faith impacts the world around us in a way that is relevant and meaningful to our neighbors.
Let us build a house and build a community in which all are welcome…welcome to build relationships with God, each other, and our neighbors.
Our buildings matter. The buildings that we use and appreciate hold special meaning to us. In our homes we find rest and security. School buildings offer the opportunity to learn and explore. The living room of a dear friend or relative can be a solace from the busyness of life. The landmark buildings of our communities and nation fill us with pride and inspiration of the life we share with our neighbors.
Our buildings matter, partly for their features. If your access is limited, you are excluded. If you aren’t comfortable in the building or its function is poor, there’s no rush to return. If the building is outdated, it’s relevance to your daily life seems limited.
Our buildings matter, partly for their features, but mostly for the people they gather. What is a home without those you love spending time inside? What is a school building without classmates and teachers? What is a capitol without champions of justice and peace?
Church buildings matter, too, partly for their features, but mostly for the people they gather. We need a building that welcomes all people, that allows us to experience peace and rest. We need a building without distractions, a place that helps us to encounter God in a way that impacts our lives today. We need a building that enables us to build connections with God, with each other, and with our neighbors.
The building we care most about is the building of relationships. St. John’s mission is all about relationships. We are “reaching up, reaching out, and reaching within” in order to build a trio of relationships: with God, with our congregation, and with the wider Evansville community. We are shaping our physical building to serve God’s mission of building each other up: in faith toward God, in love toward each other, and in service toward our neighbor.
Want to read about the scope of the building renovation plans in more detail? Click Project Scope