We are one semester in with our partnership with One Love Preschool. I wanted to take this month’s column to talk a little bit about how it is going and how we got here. One Love began on Maple Avenue in 2017, though Annie, the teacher and owner, has been teaching far longer. This school had developed a good reputation in that short time and was looking for a bigger space and very much wanted to stay in Altamont. One of her families suggested us to them, and it was contact from her that first initiated this dialogue. We didn’t necessarily go seeking this, this opportunity found us, but isn’t that how it often goes?
We have housed a preschool in the past, and so this is not uncharted territory. As a church, there has been an expressed desire to reach out to the community and connect with the community in a deeper way. And we have space which is largely unused during the week. Annie deeply cares about connecting with the community, and was very energized by our community dinners and ways that the preschool could get involved. After prayer and discussion, your consistory decided to move forward with a partnership. There were a few reasons for this:
First, this is good stewardship of our space. We have a building that doesn’t get much use during the week, and it is, quite simply, not good stewardship to occupy this space and have our building largely unused during the majority of the week. We have been blessed with a great location and a good building and it is good stewardship for it to be used to its fullest.
Second, this is a way to connect with the community. People will be in our building, and the space will be familiar to them. There can be a good experience at a church. So many people have had bad experiences at churches, this simple thing is very valuable. Some of the families might want to connect with the church, this would be an even better benefit. We often lament that churches are not the centers of the community any longer, and this is one way to begin to recover that a bit.
Third, churches work (or ought to work) for a stronger community and world, and supporting education, even for the youngest in our community, is part of that. Education has long been part of the mission of the church, and while this is not an official arm of the church, by providing space, we can help to support this.
So how has it been going? From my perspective, it is going very well. One Love has been making significant and meaningful connections with our church and ministry. They have made centerpieces for the tables and have baked cupcakes for the community dinners, they made cookies for a coffee hour. It has been wonderful to have so much life in the building on weekday mornings. I have started getting to know the families, connecting with folks that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. One Love has been wonderful, respectful, and courteous occupants of the building, and Annie has been flexible and gracious. And, even better, as a result of the move, she was able to reduce fees for the families.
Has there been some adjustment? Of course. Things are a bit different, but difference is not necessarily a bad thing. Between the community dinners and the preschool, we have made leaps and bounds toward our goal of having an increased connection with the community. And this involves change and adjustment, and even some loss, thinking about how things have been. But we are invited to acknowledge that loss, grieve it, and then look to what God might be doing in our church and our community. Your Consistory believes this to be a mutually beneficial relationship, and so far it has shown itself to be. And sometimes, one of the most significant things that a church can offer to a community is space. In many communities, the churches often have the largest space, and a significant ministry that a church can offer is to invite the community into that space. After all, we follow a Savior who gave of himself—completely—and the ministry of space is often the very least that we can do.
Your Consistory is hopeful for this relationship in the future, and hope that both the church and the preschool will be better for it. After all, we have complementary missions, not competitive ones, and the success of one benefits both.
With deep and abiding love,
The Rev. Matthew J. van Maastricht
Pastor and Teacher