One year ago our church made the bold decision to move a beautiful but neglected house onto our property. More than an engineering feat and a financial risk, this project was “a big deal” because it demonstrated a genuine stepping out in faith. Together we decided that our congregation was ready to take risks in order to serve our community and be faithful to God’s call upon us.
The Bessie Smith House, as we’ve come to call it, had its original foundation built so long ago (1907-1908) that the Chicago Cubs were the reigning World Series champions at the time. We are excited that the Cubs will also be reigning champions when the new foundation gets built, early in 2017.
That’s when the work of restoration begins… In a little known film called Under the Tuscan Sun, a struggling author tries to break her writer’s block by taking a vacation to Italy. While taking a daytrip out to the countryside, the writer, on a total whim, impulsively purchases an abandoned old villa. Totally broken down, she hires a ragtag bunch of Polish immigrants to fix up the place, and in the process they become like family to her. By the end of the movie, it becomes quite clear that the restoration of the home mirrors the revival of her spirit.
In this story lies the potential of the Bessie Smith Historical House Project. The rebuilding of this dilapidated house can both a symbol and a concrete expression of our congregation’s re-formation. In some ways, we already see these changes beginning to happen. Newcomers are joining us, our ministry is becoming more multilingual, and our congregation is beginning to more closely reflect the diversity of the Greeley community. The church’s recent leadership retreat has made it a priority to continue moving in this intercultural direction, and the visibility of the Historical House Project is opening up doors of connection and partnership. The days, months, and years ahead present a grand opportunity to expand our “Family.” Both during the restoration process and after the doors of the house re-open, we have the chance to further build mutual relationships across lines of class, race, language, culture, and belief.