The Community: More than Just a Name
The Community: it’s not just the name of the church. It’s at the heart of their ministry.
“Meaningful relationships and meaningful community is at the heart of what God wants from us as people,” says Billy Norden, copastor of The Community, an RCA Ministry in Ada, Michigan. The church has a history of actively building partnerships with the local government and businesses.
Last year, The Community explored the possibility of a formal partnership with Ada Township to build and share ownership of a new community center. While construction of the center did not come to fruition, the church and the township have continued to work together for the benefit of their community.
“There is a great deal of excitement of the possibilities and freedom to be the church in Ada,” says Mara Joy Norden, The Community’s other copastor.
Since 2009, The Community’s parking lot has been the site of the seasonal Ada Farmers Market, at no cost to the township.
“The re-location of our farmers market to this location from a previous cramped site breathed new life into our market and enabled it to grow significantly over the years,” says Jim Ferro, Ada Township planning director. According to Ferro, The Community has also had a formal agreement with the township for the past six years to allow the public to use the church parking lot, “providing a significant benefit to the surrounding business community and the general public.”
This isn’t the first time The Community has welcomed community parking on its property. A century ago, in the 1910s, the church provided area residents a place to tie up their horses. Unfortunately, for a short time in the 1990s, that hospitable practice was reversed.
“When I was growing up, our church actually had a locked gate to prevent entry through our rear drive during the week,” says Gregg Gruizenga, a member at The Community. “We now have public parking signs welcoming visitors to the village to use our parking resource. This is one tangible example of how, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, we have been intentional to recognize and prioritize the needs of our neighbors.”
Recently, as part of the redevelopment of downtown Ada, the road behind the church was moved 100 feet north to create a new main street. This relocation created a new tract of land behind the church, owned by the company Amway. Amway gave the land to the church to develop it for the benefit of the broader community. The Community has since been working with various developers to determine the best use of the land.
“We are being careful to find a good partner to create something the community needs, and that helps support the ministry,” Mara Joy says.
The idea is that through this process the church building will be updated to support new and self-sustaining activities. According to Mara Joy, these updates might include a large conference room, a day care center, indoor and outdoor children’s play areas and program spaces, a community lounge, a business incubator, and a banquet hall with a commercial kitchen. The Community has also looked into turning the sanctuary into a multi-purpose space, which would enable the church to host concerts, weddings, and larger meetings and conferences.
“The property is a real gift,” Billy says. He admits that selling the land along with the existing church property would net more than enough to build a brand-new church building in the country, but the congregation knows that wouldn’t fit their ministry.
“It’s been a real sense of call to be in the community,” he says. “There’s work to be done here.”
[Photo courtesy Mara Joy and Billy Norden]