Grace River began with a small group of people gathered in my living room imagining what could be and asking the Father to show his intentions. The attitude with which we began continues to be one of sorrow and brokenness and yet great hope and expectation. Most, if not all, of those who have found a home at Grace River, would readily confess to having "suffered for a little while". Some have been suffering for a long while. Grace River IS a "fellowship of suffering" (see Philippians 3:8-11).
Our first seven worship services were held at Martin and Joanna Castro's coffee shop/karate studio in south Fort Collins (Hwy 287 & Carpenter Road). Martin is a true friend who has willingly, lovingly, and sometimes sternly walked with me through some of the darkest days of my life. Visit his website at http://www.questacad.org/, especially if you live in the area and would like to look into top-notch martial arts training from a Christian perspective.
Our attendance while at Martin's steadily grew:
December 13th - 67
December 20th - 69
December 27th - 76
January 3rd - 68
January 10th - 72
January 17th - 88
January 24th - 96
As the attendance has grown, so has the atmosphere. It's hard for me to describe because I have never been a part of something this exciting. It's a feeling of love, a feeling of home, a feeling of honesty and authenticity, a feeling of hope, and a feeling of sheer joy. It is the truest manifestation of the Spirit's presence that I think that I have ever observed and experienced in any church.The first seven weeks were marked by "BYOC" (bring your own chair), less than quiet babies, tears and laughter, communion at the coffee bar, lawn chairs, food, hugs, and lots of testimonies. There has been a continual reminder (almost a mantra) that Grace River is a safe place. It is a place to come as you are and to share your deepest hurts, habits, and hangups believing in a God who loves to heal the broken-hearted.
Our eighth week together was marked by worship at the new building (1450 Westwood Drive). This is a building that formerly housed a Lutheran Church. It's a fairly new building (1999) that has been empty for two years. We started negotiating for the building back in December and were not able to sign the lease until Friday, January 29th. Our people came together on Friday evening and Saturday and cleaned the building, put anything we wouldn't use in the shed, and created worship space that we previously had only dreamed of. Ironically, we initally counted 96 chairs in the building (the exact number of our last service at Martin's). We would later find one more chair. Utilities were subscribed to with no deposits being required. The deposit for the building was donated by one of our families. In trying to get water, we realized that the connection was frozen at the street. The Town of Windsor readily sent someone out late Friday afternoon to solve the problem and to get our water flowing.
Our first service at the Westwood building was simply amazing. Worship, led byKyle Donohoe, was honest, passionate, and Christ-exalting. Our first song was the old Hank Williams standard, "I Saw the Light". My message was a continuation in our series, "New Beginnngs". We're looking at the creation narrative and making application to the creative work of Christ in our lives. The text for Sunday was Genesis 1:24-31 and emphasizd five truths: #1--We are the image of God (v26-27), #2--We are made to rule (v26,28), #3--We are blessed by God (v28), #4--We are provided for by God (v29-30), and #5--We are VERY good.
The 97 chairs that were set up would prove insufficient. Just prior to beginning the service, folding chairs were brought out of storage in order to seat the 113 worshippers that gathered for our first service in the new building.
I am thrilled to look forward to what God has in store for us in week nine. We are just beginning. May God continue to grow his church by adding day by day the broken and the hopeless. "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Peter 5:10).