Ministering in the diverse, growing city of Nashville, Tenn., is a challenge for small churches. For the congregations of Faith Christian Reformed Church, Rehoboth Eritrean Church and Grace Village of the Presbyterian Church of America, sharing space is helping to spread kingdom work.
“It’s sort of like having someone share space in your own house: it takes good communication and lots of goodwill to make it work,” said pastor Neil Jasperse, Faith’s specialized transitional minister since last September. Specialized transitional ministers are pastors with training and endorsement from the denomination’s Pastor Church Resources ministry to help congregations deal with challenging times of transition.
Faith was established as a CRC in 1983. In 2012, one of its members became aware that the Rehoboth Eritrean Church was looking for suitable worship space. The connection was made, and Rehoboth Eritrean moved in to share Faith CRC’s building.
More recently, over lunch with Grace Village PCA’s pastor, Jasperse learned of that congregation’s need for more space. Grace Village moved into Faith CRC’s building this March. “It has been a blessing to forge relationships with Grace Village, their pastor, their leadership and their people as we overlap a bit on Sunday mornings,” said Jasperse.
Right now, the Eritrean church meets Sunday afternoons in the 10,000-square-foot building. Grace Village has worship at 9 a.m. Sunday and then holds Sunday school while Faith CRC holds Sunday school first and then has worship at 11 a.m.
The three churches aren’t the only ones sharing the building. A Spanish-language preschool has filled Faith’s classroom spaces during the week since 2015. “I was looking for a Church to open its door to our program,” said Ana Cardona, director of Parents’ Day Out. “I searched and called so many churches. It has been an amazing blessing to the community having our program located at Faith.” The location is strategic for parents, and the church's community garden has been another way to draw families out, making more connections for the preschool.
Faith CRC rents their space to the churches, which is also a practical blessing, enabling them to meet their budget. This in turn frees their hands to minister in Nashville—a city that in 2015 and 2016 was growing by 100 people a day. (tennessean.com)
Gene and Mary Bratt have witnessed all these changes and more. Gene has been an elder for most of the years since Faith joined the Christian Reformed Church.
“I believe the differences that separate us from others in Christ can sometimes be exaggerated, and may prevent us from exploring more fully the blessings we share in the Gospel,” he said. Enriched by the many points of connection, Bratt said he’s come to realize those blessings “as we grow in the company of others.”
Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, all of the groups that meet in Faith CRC’s building were invited to join in a Family Fun Day picnic.
“We had people from Tusculum School, a public school in our neighborhood which Faith supports in various ways; Grace Village church; Rehoboth Eritrean Church; and Parents’ Day Out program,” Jasperse said. “It was a fine day together.”