Did you know that there are still 66 Presbyterian-affiliated colleges and universities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico?
At one time in our history higher education was one of the highest, if not the highest, commitment to mission that we had. It’s astounding to think about the broad vision, the denominational momentum, and the deep financial investment that it took to create colleges all across the country. It’s refreshing to think of a time when a single mission focus seemed to capture the hearts, imaginations and faith of Christians across the country and from every theological corner.
I doubt that we will have a similar resurgence of commitment to higher education that shows up in the development of dozens of campuses and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. That was a good story for its time. But I do wonder if we are witnessing a similar phenomenon unfolding among us.
If higher education was the mission focus of the 19th and 20th centuries might affordable housing be the focus that is appearing before us in the 21st century?
I have been clear that I believe much of the future vision of this presbytery will be based not on some far-reaching ambitious plan, but on following the energy of people and congregations in our own presbytery. And this is one of those areas where there is growing energy, enthusiasm, passion and commitment.
I am sure that I have not discovered all the quiet corners in our presbytery where addressing affordable housing has become a major mission focus for our congregations. But these are the ones I do know about. I want to hear about the ones I have missed as well. Give me a chance to tell your story!
Church of the Siuslaw, Florence—taking the lead in a community partnership called First Step. As part of the pilot for this project two units are located on Church of the Siuslaw property and a separate property has been purchased to expand the program to many more units (read article here).
- First Presbyterian, Astoria—congregation members have purchased a building in downtown Astoria to ease the need for low-cost housing for workers who cannot afford housing in the coastal town (read article here).
- First Presbyterian, Portland—the long-standing Julia West House is being considered for redevelopment as affordable housing and supportive services in downtown Portland.
- Central Presbyterian—played a leading role in the development of Opportunity Village, a tiny house community for the homeless and partner with Square One Villages, where former Central Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Lorne Bostwick, serves as the board president.
First Presbyterian, Cottage Grove—took the lead with Square One Villages in the development of the Cottage Village Coalition for the development of a 1.2 acre tiny homes community for 13 homes. The Cottage Village Coalition received a $100,000 Birthday Offering grant from the Presbyterian Women.
- New Ministries Team—The Presbytery Leadership Commission has endorsed the plans of the New Ministries Team to partner with the Leaven Community Land and Housing Coalition for the potential development of the nine-acre former Cooper Mountain property into affordable housing and community space (note: final plans would have to receive presbytery approval).
Do you have vacant property that could be developed into affordable or transitional housing?
Do you have the vision to develop affordable housing in your community?
Do you have an unused building or church space that could be converted into temporary or transitional housing?
Are you looking for a mission where you can feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, and renew hope for the working poor?
There are people and churches in our presbytery who are taking the lead on what has become one of America’s most disturbing crises—the lack of affordable housing for the homeless, the working poor and even many middle class families.
At one time Presbyterians took the lead on building institutions of higher education. It is one of our great legacies. I wonder if God is calling us to something new. I wonder if affordable housing is our next big adventure in mission.
The energy in the presbytery tells me it just might be so.