following Future Story was presented to the congregation at First
Christian Church on February 3, 2008 (if you have any feedback to share
with the Visioning Committee,
please feel free to send us an E-mail):
Future Story -- told from the year 2015
proclaiming First Christian Church’s promise statement, developed back
in 2008 as part of a larger visioning process and awareness campaign,
are draped above the front steps leading up to the sanctuary:
Church: transforming lives, Christianity, and our world.
“Well, Christianity sure could use some
transformation – I wish them luck with that,” Adam mused to Eve, as they
walked past the church on Oak Street with their friend Rebecca. Once
they arrived at Theo’s Coffee House, Eve picked up the conversation:
“Actually, Adam, this church might
surprise you. I moved into my apartment on West Broadway seven years
ago, and it’s amazing what they’ve been doing. I’ve actually become a
“Really? So what’s up at First
Christian?” asks Adam.
“Well, it’s a little embarrassing,”
whispers Eve, “but I actually first came in contact with them through
their Good Samaritan ministry.”
“What’s that?” asks Rebecca.
Eve elaborated: “I was basically a
street person, new to Eugene, trying to find shelter. They gave me food,
but more importantly, they listened to me.”
“What’s so great about that?”, asked
Rebecca, not quite understanding the point.
Eve answered: “They gave me hope. They
couldn’t solve all my problems, but they pointed me to other agencies
and resources in the community. I think they may have had more faith in
me than I did.”
“That’s cool”, Rebecca said in reply.
Eve continued: “After I got on my feet,
found a job, and got my apartment, I went back and helped in the Good
Samaritan ministry – you know, trying to give something back, and,
frankly, to feed my own spiritual needs.”
“You actually did that?”, asked Adam.
“Yeah, and I discovered that they take
their downtown ministries very seriously. They have that one, the Good
Samaritan ministry for street people. Then they have the Helping Hand
Room for homeless people, as well as folks who have apartments and jobs
but need help with clothes and stuff. I got clothes for my job interview
from them. They also have soup kitchens and a shelter. Lots of their
members are trained in mental illness and addiction problems. They even
helped me with a scholarship so I could take some classes and get a
promotion at work.”
“Sounds like they have a compassionate
spirit toward strangers”, observed Rebecca.
Eve added: “Pretty much. You know, I’m
not really into the whole ‘worship’ thing – going to church on Sundays
and all of that. But I keep up on their web site, reading some of the
writings from Dan Bryant – sermons and stuff. You can even listen to the
audio, which I’ve gotten in the habit of doing while I wash dishes.”
“Even doing that much sounds extreme to
me”, said Adam.
“Maybe, but it really kind of blows me away. They actually take Jesus’
teachings seriously – to stand up for the poor, the oppressed, the
marginalized in society. They actually believe in peace instead of war,
literally to treat your neighbor as you would yourself. What a concept!”
“I like the sound of that”, said
“Their belief, what they call their
theology, is kind of weird – the focus is on this life, what we do
during our time on earth, not so much about being ‘saved’ and an
“That sounds different”, said Adam.
“Yeah, and it means they actually care
about things like the environment, global warming, a green economy.
They’re not waiting for Armageddon to happen – they don’t even buy into
that type of mythology.”
“This is weird – now I have something
in common with a Christian church. I must say, I’m a little intrigued”,
“Oh, and they’re somewhat radical about
the equality thing – male or female, rich or poor, gay or straight,
black or white or anything in between, everyone is considered the same
inside that church. And they fight for that same equality outside the
church as well. As an example, several years ago they officially became
an open & affirming congregation.”
“I didn’t even realize that type of
Christianity existed,” Adam says, with a mix of disbelief and confusion
in his voice.
didn’t either. When I walked into that Good Samaritan office seven years
ago,” says Eve. “I figured I’d have to renounce Satan and accept Jesus
as my personal Lord & Savior, before they’d give me a box of crackers.
Come to find out, the folks I’ve met don’t even talk much about Satan or
Hell. The church doesn’t have a long list of things you have to
“Wow, these people are totally out
there by themselves!”, exclaimed Adam.
“No, as it turns out, they’re not alone
– there’s a whole movement of progressive Christianity going on that
they’re part of. They call it the ‘emerging church,’ or something like
that. I don’t know if it’s left, right, or otherwise, but I know they
think of it as taking Jesus seriously.”
“Yeah, you said that before. I’m
starting to get it”, said Adam.
“That Helping Hand room I was talking
about is a good example -- that started way back in the 50s, and now
it's a coalition of three downtown churches, all working together to
serve the poor.”
Just then, one of Eve’s best friends,
Mary, entered the coffee shop with another group of friends. Eve warns
her group: “If this conversation continues, you’ll get an earful from
“Hey, what’s up?” Eve asks, as Mary
“Not much,” replies Mary, “just
catching a little afternoon caffeine before crashing at the townhouse.
What are you guys talking about?”
Eve responds, “Well, we passed First
Christian a couple blocks ago, and I was going on about how that place
has impacted my life. I warned my table that they may get a double dose
That is all the chance Mary needs.
“Eve’s right! I have been so excited about everything going on there –
small groups, Bible and other book studies, young family groups and
marriage enrichment classes, groups outside the church like hiking
clubs, all kinds of social support. We even do a ‘parents’ night out’
thing where different people do babysitting so others can go have dinner
and watch a movie – we rotate around, each taking a turn.”
“Gee,” says Julie, “sounds like you’re
really involved. Do you get enough volunteers for that?”
“Yeah, the families really support each
other”, replied Mary.
“Isn’t it kind of a hassle to come
downtown, find parking and everything?” asked Tim.
“Actually, a lot of our new members
live downtown -- – a lot of folks walk to the church every Sunday
morning, like I do”, informed Mary. “The church has made a real effort
to reach out and not only serve the unique needs of downtown, but to
attract members from the neighborhood as well – a lot of folks walk to
the church every Sunday morning, like I do. I’m hoping to get Eve to go
with me,” Mary says with a smirk.
“Maybe I will,” says Eve, smiling back.
Mary continued: “As part of that
neighborhood thing, we’ve hung flyers on doorknobs at all the housing
units and businesses in a 6-block radius – quite a few people who work
down here come and attend the informal prayer service during their lunch
“I went to that once. It was pretty
good. Low key,” agrees Eve.
Mary queried the group: “I’m guessing
some of you have noticed our summer ‘church in the park’ that happens at
Kesey Square – between the conga drums, electric guitars, keyboards, and
free food, it’s quite a scene. I think even ol’ Ken would be tickled
that we use his spot for such a joyous celebration.”
“That’s First Christian? Wow, I didn’t
realize that – wouldn’t have guessed it” said Tim.
“I like that kind of worship,” adds
Eve, “because it’s outside, seems more open.”
“Yeah, I have seen people there,” says
Rebecca. “I thought the music was pretty good.”
speaks again, “One particular group of people that I help reach out to
are people who have been burned by churches in the past – put down, made
to feel unworthy, discriminated against. Lots of people have simply
given up on Christianity or churches in general.”
“Yeah,” says Adam. “That happened to
me. I didn’t like church and quit going when I was about 15.”
“You’re not alone,” says Mary. “Others
have never attended church or have any faith background at all. Our
generation probably never even grew up thinking about attending church.”
“I had never been to any church
before,” Eve pipes in. “But at First Christian they don’t ask you to
believe unbelievable things, they just ask if you want to help make the
world a better place.”
Mary says, “We talk about
‘evangelizing’ not to save souls, but to find kindred spirits who want
to help save the world. That’s a new concept of evangelism, not the old
one I grew up with. I find it not only refreshing, but inspiring. I
think if you focus on bringing heaven to earth, the eternal life stuff
will take care of itself.”
“That IS different,” replies Adam.
Mary continues, “There’s all kinds of
worship services to go to, if you’re into that sort of thing. We have a
high-energy service in the early morning--the music is rock-and-roll,
then a more traditional ‘churchy’ type service after that. There’s also
a more spiritual or meditative service on Wednesday nights.”
“Tell them about the 11th services,”
“Oh, yeah,” says Mary. “Eve means the
Interfaith service on the 11th of each month – hard to believe we’ve
been hosting that service since 2001, right after 9/11, and it’s still
going strong fourteen years later”.
Julie asks: “I hear about that in the
media, I’ve always kind of wondered what it’s like”.
Mary filled in some details: “All the
different faiths in the area participate in it. On the annual
anniversary these days, we have to use the Morse Event Center at
Northwest Christian University, because the crowd is too big to fit
under the dome on Oak Street. Sometimes even on our regular Sundays we
have that problem – especially when we try to get all the different
services together at one time.”
Eve jumped in, “I told you once she got
going. . . . It just seems like they have their act together. Dan
Bryant, the senior pastor, is really active in the community, always
standing up for social justice issues”.
Mary jumped in again: “It used to be
that he’d be out there talking in the public square by himself, but more
and more you see other members of the church joining with him, or
speaking out in the same way.”
“I have seen his name in the paper,”
“Yeah, and when they hired additional
ministers, it freed Dan up to do more of that kind of thing. Now they’ve
got the best of both worlds, with folks focused on the care of the
congregation, the youth group, education, counseling, volunteers, and
all those details. It seems like everyone’s needs get met in some way,”
“Sounds like a nice church – very
active”, observed Rebecca.
Mary can’t remain silent, “Yeah, when
they hired additional ministers, everything seemed to really take off –
everything got very organized, new members started showing up, and it
really did give Dan a chance to ‘go deeper’ into his theology and social
Eve says, “Right after I came, Dan got
to take a sabbatical to the Middle East and study the first century
world of the Roman Empire, where the Apostle Paul lived and preached.
The next year, he took a group of about 30 of us on a pilgrimage to walk
in those same footsteps. The parallels to today that Dan teaches about
Mary says, “From that sprung those neat
‘town hall’ meetings he facilitates to discuss issues of the day –
sometimes we advertise them to the community, so all kinds of people
show up. They’ll take a controversial issue, something like our recent
invasion of Syria, and debate it from a religious or theological
Adam commented: “That would be a great
discussion – pre-emptive war in our time compared to Roman imperial
domination in the time of Jesus. Huh. What possible connection could
Julie chimes in: “I’ve actually been to
a couple of those -- they always allow people from both sides of an
issue to speak, and everyone feels safe and ‘heard.’ It’s neat to hear
an actual dialogue on such issues, instead of just one side”.
Mary adds: “Sometimes they use that
same format for internal church communication stuff, conflict
resolution, and they always follow-up on the suggestions they hear”.
Rebecca commented that “It still seems
unusual for a church to be growing in our day and age”.
Mary continues: “One of the new pastors
brought some really interesting ideas about having small groups meet in
people's homes -- tea, football games, book studies, whatever strikes a
group's interest. For a lot of people, that setting is more comfortable
than walking into the big downtown building. On any given day, our
'church' is meeting all over the Eugene/Springfield area.”
“I’ve had the Good Samaritan group in
my apartment a few times,” adds Eve.
Mary says, “Yeah, that approach brought
in a lot of couples with young kids, which brings a whole new energy to
the congregation. It brought enough people to expand the youth program
-- even enough to fund a full-time youth minister, which has been great
for the high-school group. And the younger kids just love the Worship &
Wonder program – storytelling and reflection led by volunteers and
supported by one of our associate pastors”.
“OK, I know we may be boring you to
death at this point,” Eve says, “but to be honest, I never thought such
a church could exist. I never thought I’d ever refer to myself as a
‘Christian,’ but I actually consider myself that these days. The
relationships I have with the other Good Samaritan volunteers are among
the deepest I’ve ever had with anyone. They truly saved me in more ways
than one, and it’s been pretty incredible to turn around and be part of
helping others in downtown Eugene.”
Mary agreed, “I feel the same way. And
we haven’t even mentioned one of our coolest programs, which is the
overseas mission program we’re involved in. I actually leave the Eugene
airport in four days for my first trip as part of that. I don’t really
know what to expect, but a couple of years ago, the church joined forces
with a couple of other churches in Oregon, and they adopted a small town
in rural Mexico. They'd already been doing an annual mission trip down
there to build homes, but now they’ve expanded it to work on things like
purifying water, and education to help people understand why that can be
critical for them and their kids. This trip, we’re going to begin the
construction of a church, and in future years we’re going to build a
school. It’s incredible the difference you can make in someone’s life,
but even more incredible is how these trips deepen the soul of our own
church here in Eugene. All the volunteers come from the congregation –
we just keep cycling through new members. When they come home, there’s a
new-found sense of purpose in their lives – I know it sounds kind of
corny, but these trips really change people. And now I’m about to be
Julie mentioned that “My daughter’s
best friend went on that last year, and was just on fire. She showed us
all her pictures, and had a pretty incredible story to tell about each
one. She said the plans get bigger every year”.
“Wow, I guess I didn’t realize what the
heck that old building was up to,” says Adam. “Now I know what their
banner from last month meant – ‘Take the Bible Seriously, Not
Literally!’ Who knew?! I have seen the community rally around their
building project. I’ve been in there a time or two, and those windows
are really cool. It's good to see they'll last for another 100 years.”
“Yeah,” replies Mary. “It's nice that
the church has become financially strong enough to expand the elevator,
build the new entrance out back, get a new organ, and refurbish the main
Eve chimes in: “I think they've grown
because they just seem to ‘get it’. They talk about discerning God’s
will and trying to bring it about on earth, but to me, it just seems
like they care and speak out on social justice issues. It’s almost as if
the loving way is written in their hearts.”
Mary says to Adam, “Why don’t you come
with Eve and me this Sunday?”
Adam replies, “I haven’t ‘gone to
church’ since I was a kid, but I guess I could try it. If the two of you
are willing to go with me, then I’m in.”
Eve smiles and says, “Okay, it’s a
deal. We’ll pick you up at your place at 9:10 and walk over to the
rock-n-roll service. Be prepared to dance!”
At this point, a group sitting at
another table asks: “Can we go too?!”
As a church, our work is never done.
But we know the spirit always moves
toward union, not division.
As we look back on the past 7 years, we
can proclaim that First Christian Church is indeed transforming lives,
Christianity, and our world, here in the heart of Eugene.
Do you have feedback regarding this
Future Story? What did you like? Any concerns?
Anything else you'd like to share with the Visioning Committee? If
please feel free to send us an E-mail. Thanks!
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