Our origin story as a new church start is a bit different from the average one. We kind of followed the mother daughter model as we were planted from another congregation. San Dimas Community Church gave birth to Sacred Place in many ways. However, unlike most church plants, the mother congregation ceased to exist once Sacred Place came to life. As such, we immediately picked up the torch of a mission of justice, inclusion, and family and carried it on taking it the 11-mile distance to Rancho Cucamonga.
Doing things a little differently, we didn’t start like many church plants do by gathering monthly, then twice a month, and so on before finally starting to meet weekly. I promised everyone that there would be some sort of gathering each and every Sunday as a way of continuity between the old things we did and the new thing we are doing. I didn’t promise that we would worship as we always had or that every Sunday would be a worship service with music, a sermon, and an offering. As a now portable church, the sheer work required for set up and tear down each week requires a lot of our limited number of volunteers, so a Sunday off for them was a big motivating factor in doing something completely different than a standard worship service once a month. What exactly to do with those Sundays took some thought and creativity.
We strive to keep our mission at the forefront of our thought. Trying to reintroduce that to an existing congregation was difficult for us in the past, so we wanted to have that be a clear part of who we are from the get-go. So often the church is accused, often rightfully so, of being focused on ourselves when we do the work of mission. It is easy for mission trips to become far more about us feeling good for helping others and saving their souls than it is about serving others in the ways they truly need. We wanted our mission to be about doing the work necessary to create change in our world, which, let’s be honest, is not really what the usual worship service is about. It’s something we were guilty of doing in the past and we wanted our new present and future to be different.
Out of that desire to keep our mission of creating a just world where ALL are included in the family of God, one sacred place at a time at the center of everything we do, we created our Mission Sundays on the fourth Sunday of each month. Each month we’d focus on Justice, Inclusion, or Family. Going through a rotation with very tangible ways of living out each aspect of our church’s DNA. Our Family mission events are times where it’s easy for us to invite those who wouldn’t normally show up on Sunday morning to join us for some form of fellowship. Inclusion mission events really focus on the world around us, specifically the new community in which we find ourselves, and learning about and interacting with it. These are often the toughest to plan in our usual Sunday morning time slot, but can be the most impactful. Our Justice mission events are our small way of making a bigger impact.
My husband and I recently completed the two year adoption process with our son through the LA county foster care system. We had the privilege of going through extra education through our agency to learn about the challenges for children in foster care in Southern California and beyond. One of the things that struck us is what a removal from an unsafe situation looks like. An emergency social worker arrives on the scene not always knowing what to expect. Kids are given a trash bag or two to hastily pick the things they want to take with them not knowing where they are going or they’ll come back. I cannot begin to understand what that kind of trauma is like. During that portion of our classes, I wondered what could be done to make that situation just a little bit better.
When we completed our son’s adoption last month, we had the gift of a photographer who donated her time to capture our memories of that blessed day so that we could share them with our family and friends and preserve those memories for our son as he grows up. The very same organization, Together We Rise, partners with organizations to provide other necessities for children entering or already in foster care. One way is through duffle bags called sweet cases which are decorated by volunteers and filled with a few comfort items like a teddy bear, a soft blanket, a toothbrush, and a coloring book with crayons. Just this small token of love can help a child feel a sense of comfort in a tumultuous time. When I heard about this opportunity, I knew that it would be a great way for us to do even a small act of justice for the twenty kids who will receive the bags we decorate and assemble.
The work of justice is often daunting when our world feels so unjust at times. Finding something tangible that will actually have an impact can be difficult but it is rewarding, not for us who do the work, but for those who benefit from that work. This is just one project for us, one small way for us to live out our mission, but it’s good and it’s real. It’s a way to put our actions in line with our hearts. That’s the kind of Sacred Place we want to build, one that does the work of justice in our world, even in small ways. It’s at the heart of who we are called to be and who we work hard to be. If only every church could meet the needs of the world in ways like this. Ways that make a difference because they are what are needed and not what we want. It’s not about imposing ourselves and making the world in our image but instead doing the work of our Creator to reconcile and make new even our own broken systems. I pray that we might face injustice in this way together: naming it and working to heal it. If you’d like to join us in the work of realizing justice in tangible ways, visit us on social media or in person. This is work we must do together, each one of us, if we ever hope to truly make the world a better place. For this is your sacred place.