Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Eldorado Community Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Every seat had a box with a label reading "Please do not open until instructed to do so." During the sermon, Pastor David told us to open our boxes. He asked us what we found. Most people called out "a paratrooper" but I said, "Pooper Trooper" because that's what we always called the toy when we were kids.

Mindy and I had arrived for the fifth (and last) Sunday of a sermon series entitled "Elements," which explored what we need to be a follower of Christ. We missed "Earth" for Christian Character, "Fire" for Communion, "Wood" for Connection, and "Water" for Community, but we were there for "Wind" for Commission. Acts 2 and John 3 were used for texts, both of which describe the Holy Spirit with the image of the wind. The toy was a reminder that just as the wind directs the plastic parachute, we must rely on God for direction.

Pastor David McPherson followed God's direction to come to Santa Fe to plant a church fourteen years ago. He had been attracted to the area for many years. As a young man, he had served at Glorieta Camps, just a few miles from the city. He and his wife, Melanie, had often vacationed in the area and had thought of retiring there. But they finally thought, why wait?

With some support from the Southern Baptist Church they came to the community of Eldorado, about about eleven miles from the Santa Fe plaza. There was not an evangelical church in a ten mile radius from the Eldorado Community Center, and a decade and a half later there still is only one other church in the area, Saint Elias the Prophet Greek Orthodox Church.

David spent the first year talking to people and listening to what they were looking for in a church. And that first Sunday, there were sixty people; very encouraging. And the next week there were twenty people, and in upcoming weeks there were less. But the church persevered.

Santa Fe is not exactly the Bible Belt. The area attracts a unique demographic which partially explains why the church strives to be a "community of grace and hope for searchers, dreamers, rebels, artists, losers and adventurers." David described the congregation as having a variety of backgrounds, "Muslims, Buddhists -- we recently baptized a young woman who was raised as a Pagan." Most of the people we met seemed to have a Christian background, but David admitted that in the recent past the church has become a bit more "churchy."

We were introduced to the church by our friend, Mary Southall, who we knew from the Healdsburg Community Church. For much of her life she had been repelled by the church, having grown up with a father who said she should go, but didn't live up to it himself. About ten years ago she happened upon Healdsburg Community Church, and when she moved to New Mexico she hoped she would like this Community Church as well. She soon integrated herself into the church. That morning, she made and brought the snacks; she also leads a weekly Life Group in her home.

Pastor Dave wouldn't call her a member of the church, though. The church doesn't have members. Once people have attended for a while and decide to step up their commitment, they can become volunteer staff. And volunteer staff vote on important issues in the life of the church.

A group of interns from Glorieta also help out. We met Jake, who leads the music. He works part time at the church and part time at the coffee shop that shares the building with the church. (Other storefront neighbors include a fitness center and a Bernie Sanders volunteer office.) Another intern co-ordinates volunteers, while another leads the children's ministry (KidZone); ECC provides housing, utilities, and a small stipend; all interns must find other part time work.

Pastor Dave does other work himself. He is a professional potter, specializing in Raku, selling his work in the area. His wife, Melanie, just recently took over a different business. Last December they bought a bakery in downtown Santa Fe called Sweet Lily. It was a dream come true for Melanie, who has worked a baker for years.  Last Friday, we met Dave at the bakery, and he was manning the cash register. I asked how they handled balancing the church and the bakery, and he said they were still figuring it out.

David seems quite willing to admit that they haven't figured out how church in general should be done. He says the way they do things is continually changing, and if you like how they do things now; realize it might all be different next year. In Sunday's sermons, he challenged the congregation, if they were Christ followers, to not think of church as a place for their comfort and entertainment, but instead as God's instrument for caring for a hurting world.

I trust God will continue to direct and use ECC to care for the needs of hurting folks in Santa Fe, as their Sunday morning handout says, "We welcome those who are single, married, divorced...filthy rich, dirt poor...You're welcome if you're 'just browsing,' just woke up, or just out of jail." In short, they aim to welcome everyone; as God is directing them to do.

Service Length: 50 minutes       
Sermon Length: 32 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Our friend Mary introduced us to a number of people, and several others introduced themselves. The handout contained a tear-off sheet for visitor information (as well as space for prayer requests and updates of regular attenders' information). As instructed on the sheet, I placed ours in the offering box on a table to one side of the room.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 45
Probable Ushers' Count: 55
Snacks: coffee, tea, decaf, water bottles, cookies, frosted muffins, brownies
Musicians: 2 men on guitar and vocals, one man on percussion, 1 woman vocals
Songs: "We are Here for You"
            "How Deep the Father's Love"
            "Revelation Song"
            "Nothing but the Blood"
Miles to church: 5 miles
Miles from start: 1,379
Total 2016 Miles (to New Mexico/Texas border): 3,127