On any given morning, W83 Ministry Center opens its doors to a flurry of activity. It may be 139 elementary students filing through the doors and up the stairs to the classrooms, starting another day of school. It may be a catering company loading in the fifth floor loft to set up lunch for the television cast and crew shooting in the neighborhood. It may be the laughter and chatter from family and friends as they gather to celebrate a wedding.
Since March of 2012, Redeemer’s mantra of “a church not for ourselves” has manifested in this brick and mortar presence on the Upper West Side. Owning this multi-use building has enabled us to root ourselves in the community in ways that would not have been possible without a physical presence. Our signs may tell the neighbors who we are, but it is our active involvement in the life of this neighborhood that gives them a sense of our Identity as we welcome people every day of the week. In 2015, we hosted seven ongoing after school programs, seven live performances, and nine assemblies and receptions for various local schools. A glimpse at our calendar reveals at least half a dozen different groups using this building on most days.
We serve as a place of Intersection: people from all walks of life are welcomed into this space with hospitality, crossing paths in the most beautiful ways. The middle-aged UWS couple running a weekly community meditation class share a floor and conversations with the teachers and Spanish-speaking students of a weekly ESL program. The elementary school students sometimes assist the elderly neighbors gathered here once a week to collect donated groceries as part of a Diaconate service. We’ve held nine art exhibition openings this past year, inviting neighbors, congregants, artists and their friends to enjoy and talk about art together. Under one roof, everyone shares space and learns a little bit about one another simply because they bump up against one another.
Our physical presence in this neighborhood allows us to Incarnate. By opening our doors to the needs of the community, we communicate a vested interest in what affects our neighbors as it affects us, too. In April 2015, Council Member Rosenthal conducted her Town Hall in our sanctuary for concerned residents to speak up on issues. The Department of Transportation and Community Board 7 hosted meetings here to gather neighborhood input on where Citibike stations should be placed. We also have the privilege to celebrate with congregants and neighbors in their joyous life occasions, and last year we saw eight weddings and six bar and bat mitzvahs. We mourn with those who mourn as we hold their loved one’s memorial services. We are not just a building; we function as a hub of community life and are weaving ourselves into the fabric of this neighborhood.
There are many ways to love our city and have a faithful presence. Through the gift of a building, we are endowed with the distinct ability to be physically present, to open our doors and serve our neighbors.