by Rev. Terry Oliver, Pastor, NCCU, Union, WA  www.thenccu.org

“Service is the only location that encompasses the needs and dreams of the city, the mandates and desires of God, and the calling and capacity of the church.  Service is the “sweet spot” where all three interests come together.”  

Pastor Rick Rusaw, The Externally Focused Church

The New Community Church of Union, an ABC/NW church in Union, WA, discovered the reality of Rusaw’s words in a fresh and living way this past year.  A local civic club in Union, The Hood Canal Improvement Club, voted to donate its 11.3 acre parcel of property to the congregation for use in service to the community.  The gift was unsolicited, but came out of the deliberations of the Improvement Club, a 71 year old service organization, as they sought to decide how to use the parcel that had been in their ownership for the past 30 years.  Their acreage was adjacent to property the church had already purchased in 2007 for future ministry and community service.  The club indicated that they felt the best stewards of the property for the overall use of the community would be the church, based on its track record of service and community involvement in its seven year history.

What is so remarkable about this decision is that in 2003, as N.C.C.U was just beginning its ministry, someone in the Improvement Club suggested at a meeting that they consider giving the land to the new church to have a place to meet.  The suggestion immediately met with vocal opposition and never even  made it to the table to be voted on.  The presence of a church was looked upon with fear, suspicion, and mistrust.  What happened to transform that mentality in the course of seven years?

The most important answer is that the Holy Spirit was working through the service of the church’s members! The congregation’s first entrée to the community was a free, community Thanksgiving dinner.  Donations were accepted for the area food bank, and each year, the congregation has been one of the most faithful contributors to the food bank.  There have been a variety of annual dinners served for the community (pancake breakfasts, chili feeds, and annual salmon bakes), mostly on a donation basis.  From the outset, these were seen not as “fund raisers” but as community builders, connecting a great diversity of people.  In addition, church volunteers have worked closely with the Hood Canal School District, a school system where 85% of the children come from families below the poverty level.  Again, quoting Pastor Rusaw, “Good works promote good will, which lead to opportunities to share the Good News.” 

The congregation has grown steadily over its brief lifetime, and with a winsome witness, has found God granting open hearts and homes.  As one observer from the Improvement Club stated, “The church has become the heart of the community!”

There are many possible uses of the land donation. Initially trails will be developed for hiking, habitat instruction, and nature observation.  Future options might include  an educations center with cabins for retreats and special training.  The New Community Church of Union is blessed and humbled by this gift, and wants to keep it in the “sweet spot” of God’s work, the dreams of the city, and the calling of the congregation.