What keeps you up at night? More than too much pizza or the cup of coffee you had too late in the evening, what I’m asking is what are the worries that keep you from rest. Usually, whatever holds us awake is a picture of what we believe to be most important and what we fear will take it away. We’re all different; it might be anxiety over money or health problems that keep us awake; it might be strained relationships or the argument we had earlier in the day that we keep replaying in our minds. Whatever that is, the thing that robs us of sleep is probably the thing holding our deepest concern, value, and fear.

Can I tell you what has kept me awake as the pastor of Hazelwood? It’s the church’s property. What has occasionally kept me from sleep at night is the upkeep and maintenance of the church’s physical property and the nagging sense that it will eventually overwhelm the congregation. When we went through the Epiphany Process with Hope Partnership, we had an outside evaluator look at our congregation to give us an expert’s opinion of the church. One of the things he highlighted was the property, saying that a church of our size cannot maintain a facility like this over time. He also said that our church, although on a large property, is very hidden in the center of Muncie. I, too, said when I first came to visit Hazelwood as a prospective pastor that it wasn’t clear that the church was there even as I drove past it on University Ave. I often, when I meet people in Muncie, tell them I’m a pastor, and they usually ask where the church is and are puzzled when I explain to them its location. Many in our city just don’t know we’re here. Our location, though large and in the heart of Muncie, is on a lightly-traveled street and invisible to most of the community.

I’ve seen the church’s basement flood three times since I’ve been here, and the year before I arrived the church had an even more significant flooding. Our most recent flooding cost the church over $20,000. It’s only a matter of time before flooding happens again. I’ve also seen a lot of money go out to pay for continued maintenance on the property: new roofs, furnaces and air-conditioners, lawn care and upkeep, snow removal, and cleaning are just a few of the many expenses the church has paid to keep the property afloat. The question that kept me awake is how long the church can continue to pay a lot of money for a large property that is hidden from the rest of the community.

I know that the church, nine years ago, entertained the question of relocating from its present space, even voting with a split vote to move. Many of you have told me about that time, and for whatever reason the plans didn’t come to be. I’ve brought up, a couple of times in meetings, that moving might still be in the church’s future, but the topic was quickly set aside. I could tell that the church wasn’t, after a time of crisis, ready to take on such a big question. I hope I can still shine a little light on that possibility now with the hopes that in the future it might not be an unfamiliar thought. When I first started at Hazelwood, work was already underway to sell the Fellowship House, and I thought then that letting go of that part of the property would be enough; now I wish the church would have followed through with its decision to seek a new home. I realize I’m soon to hand off the baton of pastoral leadership, and what happens down the road isn’t up to me, but I hope I can water this little seed of possibility that might come to new life in years to come.

One of the hidden blessings of this time of pandemic is it has taught us the church isn’t the property. We’ve been a church even as we’ve been away from our physical space. We’ve learned that God is present with Hazelwood and working through us even as we’re not meeting at 1400 W. University. Maybe this time has taught us something important for the future. I know many of you long for our church building, and that is natural since the building is a repository of holy memories. But, the question I’m raising is: what if our building is more millstone than flotation device, the thing dragging us down rather than lifting us to life. The things that keep us awake show us what is valuable to us. Even as I’m taking up a new ministry, Hazelwood’s mission and future is important to me. Even if you disagree, I hope you’ll see why it’s kept me awake.

Grace & peace,

Jason Jones