A New Church in the Neighborhood

About six years ago, Jeff Heerspink, a commissioned pastor at Northern Lighthouse Ministries Christian Reformed Church and the leader of a “cluster” of church leaders in Lincoln, Neb., stood across from St. Paul United Church of Christ in downtown Lincoln. Located in the Everett neighborhood, the UCC building and congregation were in decline, as was the area around them.

Heerspink felt led to pray that Northern Lighthouse, a  congregation that ministers to prison inmates and to those released from prison, could one day plant a church in that building.

A few years later, Heerspink said, he learned that the historic church was for sale. During those years of waiting, a cluster of Nebraska CRC leaders had formed and encouraged Heerspink to contact the church.

The building was valued at more than $3 million, but the small congregation remaining there accepted an offer of $260,000. Classis Heartland, with the assistance of a generous donor, provided funding, and the F Street Neighborhood Church was born.

The first public worship service was held in June 2014. This ministry, however, is much more than the church—F Street seeks to be a light to the neighborhood and to all of downtown Lincoln, said Heerspink.

The Everett neighborhood is in transition. Although more than 40 percent of its residents live below the poverty line, local businesses and organizations are investing in the area.

What’s more, it is in a prime downtown location only a few blocks from the governor’s mansion, capitol building, and the University of Nebraska.

All around are people from many nationalities and walks of life, including young professionals, older middle-class folks, and impoverished families.

To reach its neighbors, F Street has cultivated partnerships and innovative ways to reach out.

The church hosts a farmer’s market every week, where they accept food stamps as a way to serve low-income families. They engage the neighborhoods with events and block parties.

They have entered into partnerships, and a number of community organizations meet in the F Street building.

F Street and Heerspink, along with members of the cluster of churches working together, have also built a partnership with area Reformed Church in America congregations to form a Kingdom Enterprise Zone (KEZ).

Kingdom Enterprise Zones are part of what is called the Church Multiplication Initiative; they are geographic areas in which the CRC and RCA are collaborating to start churches, often churches that have a fresh focus for ministry.

With the backing of the RCA in 2014, Heerspink hired a pastoral and teaching team of two leaders to serve at F Street. These leaders had already been serving at Northern Lighthouse; the support of the RCA allowed them to play a big role in planting the new church, said Heerspink.

He said this arrangement is an example of ministry that can happen through cooperation.

“We could not have started this church without the partnership in the way we did,” he said. “The Reformed churches in this area have been invaluable partners—financially, in prayer, and in service.” Jerry Holleman, Home Missions regional leader, said the efforts of many people have helped to make F Street a successful ministry.

“We’re praising God for something that started out as a wild dream and has resulted in this fantastic ministry,” Holleman said.

About the Author

Scott Meekhof is communications coordinator for Christian Reformed Home Missions.

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