Property With Purpose (PwP)
A new Session-approved effort to look at how we align our mission at WPPC with the future of our property was introduced to the congregation:
It’s called Property with Purpose (PwP)
- How can we use our property to fulfill our mission?
In a recent sermon, Pastor Staci emphasized the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit when facing challenging issues like this. We’re not doing this alone. The Holy Spirit is here with us, whether we call on her directly or not. Whether we feel the breeze of her presence or not, she’s with us in our discernment. Our fears, our questions and our hopes can be met with that assurance.
With this message as our inspiration and guide, the first phase is being called the Listening Process, in which everyone will be invited to participate in a small group session. We plan to do these in August. To try and accommodate our busy lives, the days and times will vary and will include three in-person dinners, two Zoom sessions and one after-worship session. A sign-up process will be started in the next week. We will also be having some listening sessions with community members.
Each listening session will have a facilitator and a note-taker. A series of questions will be used to help guide the discussions. All participants will be provided with some background information on the history and current condition of our building. The results from these listening sessions will be summarized and then reported back to the Session and the congregation. Next steps in this process will be determined by what we have heard.
We really want to hear from you and very much hope that you will participate in one of the upcoming small group sessions. In the meantime, please contact any of the PwP Team members if you have any questions or suggestions.
Committee: Property with Purpose (PwP) Team
Submitted by: Staci Imes, Joe Sheeran, MaryLou MacKay, Judy Andrews, June Howard,
Todd Peterson and Dave Ramsay
Date: October 18, 2023
The Property with Purpose (PwP) team recommends that the Session approve this report and authorize the PwP Team to proceed to the Exploratory and Option Development Phase of this discernment process. Furthermore, it is recommended that the Session set the date of November 12 right-after-church for a Congregational Meeting for the purpose of the team presenting this report to the Congregation and that this report be sent to the Presbytery of Seattle and to Thriving Congregations for their review and comment.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO THE RECOMMENDATION
The PwP Team has developed a discernment process that will take place over four phases. These phases are:
Listening Phase – initial phase just completed
Exploratory and Option Development Phase – see more information below
Planning Phase – go through a detailed planning process for the selected option
Project Phase – implement the selected option
Review and Approval Process
Listening will be on-going and integrated into all four phases of this process. Using a “looping back” method, the PwP Team will be checking in regularly with the Session and the congregation to keep everyone informed and to get feedback as we proceed. Each phase of this process will conclude with a report and recommendation to the Session. If approved by the Session, then the report and recommendation will be presented to the Congregation. It will also be sent to and discussed with the Presbytery and Thriving Congregations. The next phase of the process will not be started until all these steps have been completed.
Exploratory and Option Development Phase
Part 1 – Outreach. Using such strategies as community mapping, this will involve reaching out to the community (residents and businesses), other churches in the neighborhood, social services agencies, the Presbytery and Thriving Congregations. Issues that will be discussed with them include community needs, ideas for uses of the property, opportunities and potential partnerships.
Part 2 – Options. Based on the input received from the outreach, at least three options and a recommendation will be developed. This may include issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for potential partners that could work with us on the development of the options. The RFQ process will not commit WPPC to any contractual obligations.
Time frame for this process
At this point it is difficult to know how long this entire process will take. The Listening Phase took about 3 months. The Exploratory and Option Development Phase is expected to take longer with an estimate of it taking 12 – 18 months. Depending on the option selected, the Planning Phase could take between 6 – 18 months. Much the same could be said for the Project Phase.
SUMMARY OF LISTENING PHASE
This report summarizes the results of the listening sessions conducted by the PwP Team. There were 7 sessions including 2 dinners, 3 in-person meetings and 2 on Zoom. A total of 48 members of the congregation participated. Each listening session was facilitated by a team member using a set of pre-developed questions and had a note taker. These notes were previously presented with the draft of this report and will be posted on the WPPC web page.
WHAT WE HEARD
Participants have very positive feelings for WPPC but are concerned about its future.
WPPC is seen as a welcoming, caring, progressive and socially engaged church. We are an open and inclusive family of faith. The worship experience is wonderful, including the outstanding music program. There are concerns (and puzzlement) about declining attendance and a desire to grow (but not get too big) with an emphasis on attracting younger families. Some members are feeling a sense of division; that we’re not “all on the same page” resulting in frustration from not being heard.
There is a strong desire to remain together as a congregation with a physical space to come to.
A place for worship is very important. “Sometimes you just need to be quiet and listen for God.” The preference is that this space either be at or near our current location.
Covid has had a major impact.
Some members feel the loss of a sense of community with a separation between those who attend church in-person and those who do so on Zoom. There is a recognition that we have been very creative and flexible in dealing with Covid restrictions, but this may have unintended long-term effects.
WPPC’s mission statement is a good one but is considered more aspirational.
The statement reflects our values, but there is a recognition that more needs to be done to put these into actual practice. We should serve the community both inside and outside of our walls. More community involvement is needed. Questions were raised. What do we really mean by our land acknowledgement at each service? What does it mean to be a Matthew 25 church?
Our building should be more aligned with our mission.
We should think of stewardship of our building, not just ownership. The renters provide important income, but how are they aligned with our mission? Our building was built for a different time and is currently underutilized. The building should be more mission focused by serving the greater good of the community. Suggested uses included affordable childcare, community space and affordable housing.
There are lots of concerns about being able to maintain our building.
Words like “scary”, “anxious” and “super-concerned” were used to describe members’ feelings. Seismic issues were of particular concern as well as deferred maintenance. “Lots of heart, but too much building.” This coupled with concerns about WPPC’s financial condition raised questions about the sustainability of our building going forward. There is the need to be realistic about recognizing that just maintaining the status quo is not viable for the future.
There was a good deal of openness and flexibility when thinking about the future.
The importance of proactively planning for the future was emphasized coupled with a recognition that change is needed. There was an openness to considering various options for how to best use the building or property. Options suggested ranged from retaining some of the building to a totally new development. The pursuit of partnerships with neighborhood churches (e.g., Yoke churches) and other creative models was encouraged. Suggested uses for the site included worship space, childcare, community space and affordable housing. Recent changes in city zoning may make multi-use of the property more viable. Professional expertise will help with the consideration of these options. We need to engage the community when considering these options.
The process so far has been viewed positively and care is needed going forward.
While there are lots of concerns, there is also a strong desire to work together to determine our path forward. That this process has been initiated is seen as hopeful. The decision-making process needs to be seen as transparent and inclusive. This needs to involve both the congregation and the community.
We like who we are as a family of faith and want to stay, worship and work together.
We recognize that we face serious challenges. Maintaining the status quo is not sustainable. Change is needed.
We are open to pursuing partnerships with other churches and opportunities for the use of our property that better align with our mission.
How are you feeling about the comments coming out of the listening sessions?
What comments jumped out at you, surprised you, pleased you or concerned you?
Are you left wanting to know more about certain issues? If so, which ones?
Does the summary report accurately capture the results of the listening sessions? If not, what’s missing or needs clarification?
Do you feel that the Session is ready to hear a recommendation from the PwP Team about next steps? If so, when?
What else should the PwP Team be doing or thinking about at this point in the process?
July 16, 2023
The Property with Purpose Committee is:
Dave Ramsay, Judy Andrews, June Howard, MaryLou MacKay, Todd Peterson, Pastor Joe Sheeran, and Pastor Staci Imes. Feel free to bring your questions to any committee member!