Immanuel has been a vital part of its neighborhood association since its inception, hosting the neighborhood association meetings and gatherings for some years now. The cooperative effort of congregation and neighborhood association is yielding great fruit. If you read the Kansas City Star, you may have seen a story on its front page a couple of weeks ago on how Brad Pitt’s foundation, Make It Right, is going to repurpose an abandoned elementary school building that is only one block from the church. Groundbreaking for the Bancroft School Project is scheduled for June 1, 2012. Fifty apartment and condominium units will be carved from the existing property. Common areas inside the building like the gymnasium, cafeteria, and auditorium will be retained and refurbished for use by the neighborhood. An underground parking garage for the unit residents will be added. All will be done to LEED Platinum standards, the highest standard of green, sustainable construction.
If you wish to see an artist’s rendering of what the finished product will look like, go to bnim.com and see their home page. (You will see also that the architect plan for this project won an international award.) What you’ll see is the back side of Bancroft School, facing Forest Avenue. This drawing shows the new construction. The other side of the school will retain its historical façade. The new units should be available to rent in the summer of 2013.
The hope is that this replacement of urban blight with something that is both beautiful and a functional asset to the neighborhood will attract other positive redevelopment to Immanuel’s Historic Manheim Park neighborhood and the whole urban core of Kansas City. Already, Bank of America is pledging funds to refurbish homes in the Kansas City urban core and to pay for the demolition of houses that cannot be refurbished.
One person who has played a key role recently in advancing the neighborhood toward revitalization is Saundra Hayes. Saundra recently completed Confirmation instruction at Immanuel and will soon be confirmed. Saundra is also the president of the Historic Manheim Park Association. Her leadership, organizational skills, and energy have been instrumental in cleaning up the neighborhood and lowering the crime rate by 26 percent.
I remember the first time I tasted Saundra’s cream of tomato soup. She had brought it to church when it was her turn to host the luncheon for one of Immanuel’s midweek noon services. It was so good. Yet, it was so different. A thought has stayed with me ever since. Isn’t it possible to have a congregation that’s a little like a potluck dinner? At a potluck, everyone brings something to the table. Just think of all of those different dishes on the table, all the different colors and aromas and flavors, representing all the different households of the congregation. And we all eat from that table. We eat what we brought, we try a little of everyone else’s dish, and our plate looks like the potluck table in miniature. It doesn’t matter if there’s a dish on the table we’ve never tried before. We try a little of it anyway.
Couldn’t a church be like that? No matter how different we may be from one another in color, age, or economic status, everyone has something he or she brings to the table. When Paul wrote about the early church, he didn’t write so much about how they were all the same. He wrote about how different they were. They all had different gifts. But all of them brought something to the table that the church needed. They all needed each other. Could this be what we should be working towards: a church for all nations?
Pastor Jim Dunn