Some days, time seems to have ground to a halt in what we’re coming to call Covidtide, with so many ordinary markers and routines having been removed from our lives or altered beyond recognition. At other times, we find ourselves shelving yesterday’s plans, in light of today’s reality, in order to make something new happen tomorrow. Remember back in March when we strapped a cell phone to a tripod and live-streamed our first Morning Prayer service, and immediately began planning for a Holy Week without worshipers in pews?
As fall approached, our vestry recognized the immediate value and safety of outdoor spaces and identified Calvary Park as a place that might be renovated simply but well in relatively short order. We formed a diverse committee of parishioners, representing worship, outreach, formation, vestry, building and grounds committee, and more. And we invited two skilled parishioners to help us think through a low-cost approach to making Calvary Park a more vibrant and flexible space. Mike Hammond is a landscape architect, and Brett Norman owns a local nursery. Mike began drafting a plan, and Brett began planning for implementation. All was progressing beautifully thanks especially to Mike’s and Brett’s gifted and generous leadership.
And then the schedule suddenly changed. But for the most wonderful of reasons! When Christine Todd applied for a Tennessee Cares Program grant, the majority of it was for food, clothing, and other services for the neighbors our outreach programs are serving right now. But she also included money for the park, as all of our outreach ministries have moved outside, and space for physically distanced gatherings of all kinds is essential. Well, as we let the congregation know in our most recent Chronicle, Calvary got the grant! The catch was that all the money had to be spent by Nov. 15.
Fortunately, our vestry was already at work on the park renovation plan. And last week, even as the final touches were being put on Mike’s design, Brett was moving heaven and earth to get…well…earth movers scheduled to begin. In a matter of days, the project was underway.
My head is spinning a bit just recounting the past week for you here. But it is so emblematic of why Calvary’s ministries have been able to thrive during these most challenging of times. We are clear about our essential values. We plan boldly but prudently based on how we believe God is calling us to live those values out. And we are also ready to pivot quickly when a new opportunity for ministry arises.
There have been slight alterations to the plan you see here, but the essence remains the same. We will have a flexible space that will allow the use of our parking lot for additional space for larger gatherings. And what we know is that the first week the space is available, we will put it to use for ministries already underway. Clothes Closet and Community Breakfast will use it on Sunday mornings. Sunday evening Eucharist will be available to more people there. Children and youth will use it for formation activities. Our Wednesday evening meals, which are currently enjoyed in our parking lot, will have a beautiful new home. And God only knows what new life and ministry this space will make possible in the days ahead.
I am so grateful for the bold, faithful, visionary people of Calvary Church, and for their continued focus on the essence of the ministry God is calling us to in the world. Because we are living through a time when the need for God’s love to be made visible in downtown Memphis is greater, not less. And Calvary is living and praying and growing like a community that truly believes this is so.