And the walls came tumbling down!

November 09, 2007

“There is a time for everything,” says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3, “a time to tear down and a time to build.”


On Friday, October 26 it was time to tear down as the heavy equipment moved in and the former Live Oak Community UMC on 17th Street in Santa Cruz was plowed to the ground. The demolition was another big step toward the building of a new church, for which it’s hoped construction will get underway in spring 2008.


The new United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz will house the consolidated congregations of Live Oak, the former Grace UMC, and the former First UMC of Santa Cruz, which came together as one body in 2003. It is a groundbreaking project, believed to be the first church in the nation to be designed from the ground up as an environmentally friendly facility.


“We wanted the church to be an expression of our core United Methodist values: values rooted in the Wesley tradition and in our Christian faith,” said the Rev. Michael Love, the church’s pastor, early on in the process. “We take seriously that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,’ and so building a facility that reflected stewardship of the earth was important.”


The building will feature solar panels, windows designed to draw in more light, and several other environmentally friendly attributes. In keeping with the “green” philosophy, 75% of the materials from the Oct. 26 demolition were salvaged – keeping them out of landfills. Making way for the new ministry of sustainability, the United Methodists of Santa Cruz are aiming for a LEED accreditation of Gold on their project, “hopefully to be completed in God’s time.”


The project is at the preliminary permitting stage. The church has a provisional Zoning Board approval and expects to begin construction drawings soon.


“As for completion,” Love says, “that is a date that seems to slip and slide. Now I am told to pray/hope for early to mid 2009 opening.


“It’s all good; we have plenty of work to do before we get to that Promised Land!”


During the lengthy design and permitting process the church has been growing in membership.


“Most of all, we continue to press forward with a renewed witness to a Wesleyan ministry of Jesus Christ in Santa Cruz. We are building our Sunday School staff, our coffee house ministry is undergoing transformation and growth, the Spanish language worship service is growing, and our Sunday morning worshippers are seeing new parables in the idea of ‘sustainable’ living,” Love says.


“We are finding in this signal word of ‘creation stewardship’ a wider gospel vision, one of ‘peaceable kingdom,’ ‘koinonia,’ and even ‘communion’ in a holistic approach that turns ecology from secular program into missional core of the church. We are blessed (and challenged), joyous (and nervous), thanks-filled and humble – each step of the way.”


A capital campaign led by Susan Peters and Betsy Schwarzentraub of the United Methodist Foundation is being conducted to provide an opportunity for members and friends to furnish the building interior at completion of construction.


The former First UMC of Santa Cruz property at 250 California St., where the church has been meeting, is up for sale, with proceeds dedicated to construction costs of the new building and development of an endowment for building maintenance.


The Grace UMC property has been redeveloped into Grace Commons, a client-run mental health low-density housing project that began as a ministry of Grace UMC and evolved into a multi-agency, multi-partner endeavor. It was officially opened about a month ago.


View additional photos of the Oct. 26 demolition.