Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yesterday's buildings, tomorrow's churches.

With two pastors now planting churches in Portland, there's been some buzz out there about urban ministry. "It would be so great," people tell me, "to start a church in one of those trendy, new places like the Pearl!"

People, people, people . . . the Pearl was yesterday; it's been gentrified, yuppiefied, and priced way beyond the reach of young families and genuine creative types.

(Rule of thumb: if there's a Whole Foods in the neighborhood, then you can't afford to live there.)

No, the places to watch are those "first-generation suburbs" built in the first half of the 20th-century -- places like Hawthorne Boulevard, the Alberta neighborhood, Sandy Boulevard . . . and yes, if you hang around long enough, then you'll see "Felony Flats" on south 82nd Avenue turn into another Pearl.

(Rule of thumb: when the restaurant reviewers in The Oregonian start raving about all the really great ethnic restaurants in one particular part of town, then you know that neighborhood is going to be the next trendy place.)

Fortunately, we already have a solid church presence in those neighborhoods -- or rather, we have a solid presence of church buildings. That's why the next generation of hot, new places to worship could be churches like Stone Tower, Mount Tabor, Glendoveer, Sharon, Volunteer Park, and Lents.

Hard to believe? Yes, because those churches lost out big-time in the move to second- and third-generation suburbs in the '70s and '80s. But with people moving back into the old neighborhoods, they could get a new lease on life . . .


With the right leadership. And hard work. And planning. And a willingness to take risks.

But it could happen if we make it happen.

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