Thank you for your interest in the work we are doing in the East Village of San Diego! I am going to try to write updates about our progress every week or so.
Quick backstory (skip this part if you already know the backstory):
When we first moved to San Diego in 2010 and I began working as the Associate Pastor at Southeast Church of the Nazarene, I was also committed to working in a downtown food ministry primarily run through Mid-City Church of the Nazarene (English), with thoughts of planting a church in the area and slowly moving into a leadership position there. The ministry was (and is) mainly an outreach to people who are living on the streets, in shelters, or in temporary housing in the downtown area. It had been going on long before I came to San Diego, and because of it and other similar outreaches, the Nazarenes have developed a good name among that population. But, within a few months of participating in that work and seeing how quickly the population turned over, the task seemed too daunting, and we sort of let the idea fade into the background. But, I have continued to be part of that work downtown.
After almost five years at Southeast, while preparing for ordination, I was approached by a church and asked to interview for a senior pastor position. I did, and although I eventually asked them to take my name off of their list, it got me thinking and praying about what my next calling might be. When District Assembly came around, church planting was a heavy emphasis, and it got me thinking about the possibility of planting a church once again. After a little prayer, I decided to mention that I had been thinking about it to Pastor Steve (Senior Pastor at Southeast). Not only did he respond more positively than I anticipated, but a few days later, we were informed that the church would be inheriting a fairly large sum of money from someone who had only visited our church once. With this in mind, we became more serious about the possibility of planting a church, and we began praying about it with our church board and others. After many months of prayer, discernment, training, research, and assessment, we finally gave in to a sense of calling to the work of planting a church in the East Village. Sometime in November, we started inviting our church members to pray about becoming members of a team that would focus on planting what we have been calling “Living Water Church of the Nazarene” in the East Village of San Diego.
As we have made our slow progression down the road of discernment and beginning the work, we have found that there is indeed a great need for a church in the East Village. There is only one church with a permitted and zoned building in the East Village, and there are just a handful of others using shared space. The population of downtown San Diego is estimated at about 65,000 people right now, and as they continue to rapidly build large condo buildings (the most recent has 484 units), the city has been planning for that population to grow to 120,000. As we have talked to people we know living in the area (both people without permanent housing, and people living in condos), the response has been very clear and very positive – we need more churches in the area. So, we have been moving forward with confidence, sensing the Spirit leading us, trusting the work we have already been doing in the area, and seeing a need that we hope to help fill.
Things happening this week:
We asked people to commit to the church plant team by last Sunday, January 10th. Over the course of a couple of months, we have formed a team of eleven people (including Rachel and I), who have committed to the work of planting this church. We have a true rag-tag group with no church planting experience. We have young folks, older folks, healthy folks, sick folks, a wide array of gifts and talents, and folks from a variety of ethnicities and socioeconomic realities. I think that all of us feel underqualified and humbled by the calling to be part of this ministry. It is exactly the kind of group I have been praying for.
I am very excited about the team that we have, but we could use a few more people. As with most deadlines at our church, this one is flexible, and we are hoping that we will pick up a few more team members in the next couple of weeks. In particular, we could use a few more women to balance out our male-dominated group (8/11 are men), and we could use some more musical talent. If you know anybody who might interested in joining us, please send them my way (even if the person you know is a musically talentless man!)
We’ll start meeting weekly as a church plant team during Lent (mid February), we will begin meeting Sunday mornings on our own after Easter (beginning of April), and we’ll plan our first open worship service on Pentecost Sunday (May 15).
It seems that everyone’s first question is “Where are you going to meet?” We have been in conversation with e3 Civic High School, which is the school on the 6th and 7th floors of the new central library downtown. They have responded very positively to the idea of leasing their space to us on Sunday mornings, but we don’t have a formal agreement at this point. They have asked us to wait until late January to continue working out details, so we’re waiting. The space they have available is very nice. It seats almost 200, they have audio-visual equipment set up that we could use, they have chairs, classrooms, free parking, and many other amenities that would save us a lot of trouble if we were able to make it work. The library is a well-known building in the area, easy to find, and a comfortable meeting place for people from all walks of life. We are prayerful and hopeful that it will work out.
We have decided to have a fundraiser sometime after Easter, hoping to invite other Nazarene churches, PLNU affiliates, and anyone else who might be interested to help us with this new work. On a whim, I emailed Switchfoot’s manager about potentially playing at our fundraiser, expecting never to hear anything back because they are Switchfoot and, well, we are a tiny inner-city church. But, I did hear back, and they didn’t immediately say “no.” So, I guess we are now in conversation with either Switchfoot or Jon Foreman about potentially working together to put on a fundraiser for the church plant. Who knows if it will work out, but it would be a lot of fun if it did!
San Diego City College is in the East Village, and we are fortunate to have a student there on our church plant team. This week PLNU asked me to work as an “assistant chaplain” for their RN to BSN program on City College’s campus. You might be thinking – “Don’t you already have several jobs and a baby on the way?” Yes. But it is a fairly minimal commitment, and it will hopefully allow me to get on campus a little more at City College and make some connections there, so I’ve agreed to do my best for the program.
I registered our domain name today and started fiddling around with the wordpress theme that we purchased. I have a lot to learn about creating a full and helpful church website, but I’ll keep chipping away at it as time permits. As previously mentioned, our web address is livingwaternazarene.com, but only go there if you can promise to have really, really low expectations.
There is plenty more to share, but I’ll leave it here for this week. Please pray for us as we seek to follow the movement of the Spirit into the heart of San Diego!