When I left my last ministry calling, I was sure God was calling me away, but I was unsure of what He was calling me to. For the first few months after leaving, we rested from ministry, focusing on our family and praying with family and friends about next steps. A few things emerged as important themes: (1) we have to find balance between family and ministry, (2) we want to be a part of creating and promoting healthy ministry, and (3) we want to want to build on the foundation of relationships and networks we have established here in St. Louis. One avenue we decided to pursue was creating Concord Solutions, a ministry designed to help ministry leaders find agreement between their convictions and their common practices. Further, we concluded that the Lord is calling us to pursue one other avenue: starting a new, healthy church.
We desire to see a new church family formed that can be a place of safety and rest for people “bruised and broken by the fall.” We want to give people the opportunity to experience church community as a place of healing as opposed to wounding… a place of honoring instead of shaming… a place of love instead of resentment. Its not that we think there aren’t churches that provide this but we believe there needs to be more… particular for those wounded in the context of a Christian ministry.
So we are starting Safe Harbor Project with church health and pastoring people at the fore. Why ‘Safe Harbor Project’? This may not be the final name of the church plant so think of it as a production name for a movie, much like Blue Harvest was the production name for Star Wars. Its a project in process. We are calling it ‘Safe Harbor’ because that’s what we want this church family to be: a safe place of rest, refreshment, and refueling… and then back out on the sea for mission!
Much of what this new church will become has yet to be determined. Those that attend and invest will help bring that shape. However, there are some things which we have guiding us from the start:
1. The Glory of God: The Lord is majestic and wondrous in His person and nature but is doubly worthy of our praise because of how He has loved us in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It should show in our work, our families and in the way we love each other.
2. Dignity of All People: No matter who we are, we are all made in the Image of the Divine. If we worship God, we should honor those that bear his image… especially those that don’t feel they belong or fit well in our communities. Families struggling to care for loved-ones with addiction… families with members who have special needs… single and unwed mothers… immigrant families… all should find some kind of home in the church.
3. Freedom in the Gospel: God loves us as we are and loves us too much to leave us as we are. But if change is to come, we must have the freedom to struggle. God’s love should bring a freedom to talk honestly about where we are, how our fears and shame drive us to do foolish things and even when we fail. We will seek to build and promote this kind of loving and supportive community.
4. Power in Belonging: Scripture tells us that God is for us and when we see that embodied in brothers and sisters who are for us, it empowers us to live bold lives of love. When we ‘belong’ we know power to keep striving for better in our lives and for others.
5. Hope for the Future: Life is impossible without hope. But in Christ, we have hope not only for our individual lives (salvation, resurrection) but hope for the whole world (“Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev. 21: 5a).
We aspire to be a healthy and safe place for those seeking refuge. As such we will put a premium… not on building elaborate programs and funding a large staff… but on pastoring. These values will help shape this new church community. Additionally, as I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, the Westminster Confession of Faith will shape our teaching and Presbyterianism will shape our governance.
These are very early days so many things are still taking shape. However, we want to answer any questions you might have as best we can. ‘When are you starting?’ ‘Will you meet in person?’ ‘How will you do this during the pandemic restrictions?’ That’s what this next phase is about. We will start scheduling meetings with individuals and groups that want to hear more about the project. If you want to know more, contact me directly. I am eager to talk with you. January will likely be the time frame of many of these discussion but we may have time before Christmas for some so let me know as soon as you can. If you haven’t seen it already, you can watched the brief Safe Harbor Project announcement here.
I have been meeting with a group of trusted advisors and friends helping me find this path. At our last meeting, my passion for this project started to rise and one of the group members wrote down something I said: “I long to see a ministry that not only brings healing to people, but also brings transformation, so people outside the church looking in, ask: ‘there’s something important happening here… what’s is it?’” This is truly our heart and hope.
I pray many of you would like to be a part of this kind of work too.
I hope to hear from you soon.