|Path to Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, S.C. The house is barely visible.|
The latest iteration of "Aldersgate House," presented to the church, the district superintendent, the district board of church location and building, and Duke Divinity:
“Aldersgate House” – focus on healing and hospitality. House to accommodate both Aldersgate UMC-Chapel Hill, as well as persons living in the house (explanation below)
The Aldersgate House might have:
· A beautiful “great room,” filled with light, where padded chairs are arranged in a semi-circle, so that people can see the pastor and one another. The church would bring with us the Communion table, baptismal font, paraments, piano, hymnals, Bibles. Worship services would be much the same as they are now, except there would be Communion every Sunday, vital participation by students (see below), congregational meal most Sundays, and more “conversational-style” sermons.
· Three to four bedrooms
A. One bedroom/bathroom would provide free accommodation for the care-giver(s) of a hospitalized person.
B. Two bedrooms would provide free accommodation for Duke Divinity students – those interested in the concept of New Testament “community living” and/or those dedicated to healing ministries. In exchange for free housing, these students will commit to Aldersgate being their church for the duration of their time in the house. They will assist with worship and bring their ministry ideas to the table. AUMC will dedicate a fund to help give life to their ministry ideas; in fact, one of the purposes of the Aldersgate House will be to become a Spirit-led incubator for new ministry.
· Office space, to be used as a pastor/church office.
· Kitchen to be used by everyone
· Dining room/kitchen area to accommodate everyone for meals
· Front yard large enough and appropriate for parking (big enough to avoid annoying neighbors)
· House would be handicapped accessible
· Current church members would be encouraged to participate in daily activities of those living in the house; ie, fellowship, meals, Bible study.
· Purchase the house (about 3,000 square feet) and care for it
· Furnish the house in a simple style
· Provide free living space
· Pay for utilities, if possible
· Pay for weekly cleaning of the common areas, yard mowing, maintenance, insurance
· Provide the majority of Sunday meals
The students would:
· Make Aldersgate their church while living in the house, participating in worship, Bible studies, service, fellowship, etc.
· Observe house rules
· Keep their own rooms and bathrooms clean and in good order
· Agree to work with the pastor and steering committee
· Agree to respect the church, the space, and the opportunity they have been given
· Bring their ministry ideas to the table
· House living arrangements would be single gender but might also include married couples.
The church, the pastor, and the students would covenant to: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
1. Handicapped accessible
2. Adding downstairs bathroom(s)
If our house church focus is “healing,” then possibly once a month, we would take our Sunday church service to UNC Hospitals or a nursing home and do our service there.
Location: The house will be located no more than 15 minutes’ drive from most AUMC members. All houses we have looked at have been no more than 5-6 minutes from the current property. The house will be located no more than 30 minutes away from Duke Divinity.
Because we would remain a United Methodist Church, AUMC still would be required to have certain committees and officers, and we would continue to pay apportionments.
Flexibility – This is a new thing, and we can create new traditions or keep old ones (or both). We hope the more intimate format, spiritual formation through Communion and table fellowship, and the healing/reaching-out focus will appeal to people who are looking for something not available through ordinary church.
Now: can you IMAGINE a small group of elderly United Methodists agreeing to this? What do you think God can imagine?