of parking lots and presence

September 9, 2008

A year or two after we moved into our home in Washington, I noticed they were starting to move some dirt around on a vacant street corner. It was within walking distance of our house, and I was excited to see what new, and walkable, convenience we might have. It turned out to be a large paved parking lot for the church that was across the street.

I can appreciate that the church had a need for parking, but I remember feeling some resentment. Rather than adding to my neighborhood, I felt like they were taking something away. We got stuck with a big piece of pavement that sat empty six days a week.

I appreciate that churches are thinking more about ways they can use their space to benefit their community. I recently heard Francis Chan describe how Cornerstone is building sports fields — not because they want them, but because they are offering them to the community to use them. At my friend Charles’ church property, they have built a large play area that is open to the community anytime.

Austin Mustard Seed won’t have property anytime soon, if ever. I don’t anticipate that we will have a large worship gathering in a public space in the near future either — we will begin to gather in homes in this early season of the church. This makes me wonder what it means for us to have a presence. As we are listening to the culture of Austin, presence is at the heart of the questions I am asking. How can we be present to the city of Austin? How can we be a presence in the city of Austin?

I don’t have any significant answers yet. But even when I do, I hope the questions will linger.

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