- About DPC
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I had been at Decatur Presbyterian Church for about 10 days when retired architect
and former mayor, Bill Breen, came by my office.
Bill gave me a book titled The Architecture of Happiness.
“The Achitecture of Happiness is”, as the reviewers say, “a dazzling and generously illustrated journey
through the philosophy and psychology of architecture.
The book describes “the indelible connection between our identities and our locations.
One of the great but often unmentioned causes of both (human) happiness and (human) misery
is the quality of our environment: the kinds of walls, chairs, buildings, and streets that surround us.”
Now, some will say that such a focus upon architecture could be “described as frivolous,
even self-indulgent. (But author) Alain de Botton starts from the idea that where we are
heavily influences who we can be, and argues that it is architecture’s task
to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full (human) potential.” (review on amazon.com)
Many of you who have spent time in the newly renovated facilities
have noticed the revived quality of the environment.
You may have noticed that the spaces in which we reside in part determine who we will be
and how welcoming we will be to those who enter our doors.
The facilities of the Church of Jesus Christ are important!
They are important because they facilitate the mission of the Church.
One of our primary goals in these renovations was to remove the many barriers that were here,
the barriers that made ministry difficult, unwelcoming, and less effective than it could be.
In a sense, these buildings are like the nets the disciples were using
to catch their fish in the Sea of Galilee.
In one sense, we’ve just spent years of planning and preparation and significant resources
to “mend our nets”, so that our buildings can more effectively be used to fish for people.
Anyone who has ever tried fishing with a casting net understands the need for the nets to be mended.
Large holes in a fishing net are like buildings that are unwelcoming.
Tears in a fishing net are like buildings that are not accessible.
A torn fishing net is like a building that has become unmanageable or even dangerous over time.
So, in one sense, these buildings are like a fishing net,
but, in another sense, these buildings are the very house of God.
God does not live here; God lives and exists everywhere.
But God does tend to show up here as two or three are gathered in God’s name,
as we worship in spirit and in truth,
as we pray and listen to God’s Word and seek God’s presence together.
If this is, in that sense, God’s house, then this house, these buildings,
ought to be at least as nice, as well-kept, and as well-appointed as your house,
or my house, or the homes of any of our members!
Making this, God’s house, work for our current day ministries,
bringing these buildings up to date, protecting the exterior and rewiring the interior
in order to keep the buildings safe and dry, has cost this congregation significant money.
In the last twelve months, we have spent significant resources in order to safeguard these buildings,
make them more useful for ministry, and move them from the mid-1960’s to the present day.
I am deeply grateful for the earlier generations who passed down these wonderful buildings to us,
and I trust that generations yet to come will recognize the gift that you have provided them
so that they may do effective ministry in this place for decades to come.
Now, let us be clear. The beautiful facilities which we now enjoy are not Decatur Presbyterian Church.
These buildings are not the church!
If every brick of these buildings were to be tossed to the ground tomorrow by a tornado, God forbid!,
the church would still be here, and we would still be called to fulfill our mission in the world.
Decatur Presbyterian Church is you, the people, people who are called by Jesus Christ,
gathered in his name, and then sent forth from this place on a holy mission!
The place where the people gather is important, and the gathering itself is important!
Notice the last verse we read in our text for today.
On the Sabbath, they went to synagogue. Not long after Jesus called his disciples,
they went to church on Sunday, well, actually the synagogue on Saturday,
but the point is not to be missed! If we want to be faithful disciples of Jesus,
it is important that we have a place to gather regularly for worship and learning!
This place, these buildings, are our congregation’s primary tool for ministry.
Eric Henderson, our exceedingly helpful project manager for these renovations,
can tell you how important it is to have the right tool,
to have a tool that works for the project you are trying to accomplish.
Thanks to our contractor, Hodges and Hicks, and our architect, Barbara Black,
and everyone who worked with them, this church now has the right tool –
a beautiful, welcoming, and effective tool – to enable us do the mission that Christ is calling us to do.
Our primary tool for ministry, our “mended nets”, God’s house, now has wide open spaces
which facilitate welcoming conversations.
One church member told me that a few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning,
she had three different conversations with people that she never would have had prior to the renovations.
The buildings themselves now engender hospitality and encourage conversation.
Nearly every room in our buildings has been improved.
The quality of our environment has been transformed.
Not only will this engender happiness over time, but will enable us to do ministry more effectively.
We should acknowledge today that there is always some grief involved with renovating old buildings
Many of you have been living and serving within these buildings for longer than I have been alive.
If you have felt some sense of grief over the renovations, that’s OK. That is normal.
That’s to be expected. That’s because you care.
You have loved these old buildings and what has happened in them for many years.
If we did not love, we would not grieve.
Renovations to old buildings are inevitable over time,
but renovations will inevitably lead to a different look and feel than what was here before.
Still, the buildings themselves are not the church.
The people are the church. Where we gather is important, and the gathering itself is very important –
for nurture, comfort, strength, and renewal – but the gathering is where the mission begins, not ends!
We gather not simply for the sake of what happens in here;
we gather for the sake of what will happen out there.
When Jesus called his first disciples, where was he?
Was he at the synagogue, was he at the weekly gathering?
No, he was at the lake shore, on the beach at the Sea of Galilee.
He went to the place where young men were doing their daily labor,
and he called common men to undertake the most important mission the world has ever known.
Like those early disciples, all Christians are called to become fishers of people out there.
Some congregations had almost forgotten that during the last half of the twentieth century.
Some had begun to focus solely on church as attending worship,
and not on church as being sent in mission.
Some had begun to focus solely on what we receive while we are at church,
and not on what we give for the sake of the world when we leave this place.
Some had begun to focus solely on listening in church about spiritual matters,
and not on our willingness to talk about spiritual matters with friend and neighbor beyond these doors.
In the places where we live and work every day, inspired by we do in this place,
we are called to embody the ministry of Jesus Christ, to be Christ’s hands, and feet, and voice.
In a world that often could care less, we are called to care more.
In a world desperately in need of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation,
we are called to share, through whatever means necessary, the amazingly good news of God’s grace.
The mission of the Church has not changed since Jesus called those first disciples.
Come, follow me, he beckoned, and I will make you fishers of people. Notice what happened next…
In staff meeting the other day, we were reading this text and listening for what the Spirit
may be speaking to us when Alex Rogers noticed what the disciples did next.
When the disciples responded to Jesus, they left their nets and boats behind.
They dropped their source of income, their livelihood.
James and John even left their father Zebedee sitting there in the boat with the hired men.
What might we have to leave behind in order to respond to the call of Jesus Christ?
We have entered a new season in the life of Decatur Presbyterian Church.
Today’s Celebration and Dedication marks a milestone that this church will remember for years to come.
We just might have to leave behind some old ways and old traditions for the sake of the new thing
that God is doing in our midst.
And, in order to be faithful to original mission of the Church, in order to “do Church”,
we will have to leave behind these buildings.
We will have to ensure a balance between what we do in this place and what we do beyond these doors.
Faithful disciples of Jesus Christ of every age gather with him on the Sabbath day
for teaching, for support, for inspiring worship,
and then disciples go, go into the world to love one’s neighbor as one’s self,
go into the world to fish for people, near and far, to make disciples of all nations.
As you go on the walking tours today,
imagine not just what will happen within these spaces,
imagine also what ministry will happen out there in the world because of what happens in here.
These renovations will greatly encourage us in meeting our potential in ministry as a congregation,
but our full potential in ministry will not be met until we leave behind these wonderful buildings,
walk out of these wide open doors, and be about the mission in the world to which Jesus has called us.
Author Alain de Botton was onto something when he wrote that where we are
heavily influences who we can be.
Where we are in these buildings and how we relate to one another and to God in this place
will heavily influence who we can be out there in the world for the rest of the week.
Thanks be to God for making possible these renovations of God’s House,
for enabling us to mend our nets, for providing us with such a wonderful tool for ministry,
a tool that sends us forth ready and prepared to respond to Christ’s call.
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
January 21, 2018
Allysen Schaaf graduated from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Christian Education. Prior to that she received a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Rev. Dr. Todd Speed has served Decatur Presbyterian Church since August, 2007 and has been an integral part of the Decatur community ever since. As a part of his personal calling and service, Dr. Speed regularly serves on local non-profit or education-related boards, has led or co-led over 20 mission trips in various cultural contexts, and has participated in learning seminars on five continents.
Rev. Alexandra Rodgers was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She grew up in a large Presbyterian church where she and her family were very involved. Alex has a degree in interdisciplinary studies from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master of divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas.
Join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m.
Worship is the heartbeat of Decatur Presbyterian Church, the most important hour of the week. In worship, we offer praise, receive forgiveness, listen to God's Word, pray for the needs of the world, and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.
The mission of DPC is to share Jesus Christ's love for the world.
Founded in 1825, Decatur Presbyterian Church has contributed in numerous ways to the cultural development of Decatur over nearly two centuries, transforming Decatur from a tiny frontier settlement to building the foundations of the city we live in today.
205 Sycamore Street, Decatur, GA 30030