The church of my childhood and teenaged years was Glencliff United Methodist Church in Woodbine—lovingly known as “flatrock” around Nashville. Glencliff UMC was the place that formed my Christian faith in many ways. Beginning with my earliest memories of Louise Strohl--a 4ft. 2 inch, bandy-legged German woman who drilled into our little heads that Jesus was the kind shepherd who loved all his little lambs. And then on to Bobby Goodall, the President of our UMYF who, as a Sr. in High School made a big impression on me as a 7th grader that being a person of faith was not “uncool”. Later, there was David Birdsong who taught Jr. High Sunday School and made room for me and others to ask all manner of questions about the faith and learning that questions were O.K. And then Henry and Evelyn Franklin who were the UMYF leaders for two decades and who influenced many, many young people searching for the faith.
Then there were the ministers. From Luke Fuqua who would get into such a lather while preaching would occasionally sweat through the knot of his tie and whose preaching scared me; to Terry Little, a much more calming presence, to Durward McCord, the first minister I actually could relate with and who once threw me in the lake at Standing Stoner State Park; to Clifton Johnston whose 350 pound body was matched only by his equally large-sized heart and spirit; and finally to Eugene Barrett who encouraged my calling, allowed me to preach my first sermon in the church as a 17 year old in my overalls. I could never adequately repay those people for what they meant to me.
Last week I was able to attend a groundbreaking at the church—a very unique groundbreaking The little Glencliff Church has dwindled over the years and has struggled to redefine its mission. There was talk of potentially closing the church. And then something remarkable happened. In partnership with Open Table of Nashville—an agency led by one of our more courageous UMC pastors who ministers to the homeless—Glencliff UMC has broken ground on a tiny home community on its property.
For those of you who have not been paying attention, there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in Nashville. For while it is true that we are an “IT” city and our real estate prices have soared, it is also true that developers are buying up every available property and gentrifying neighborhoods that were once home to affordable housing. Don’t misunderstand—I am not criticizing developers here. But the result is that we are effectively pushing the poor among us out of the city because they can’t afford to live here.
Glencliff UMC made a decision—a very brave one—to allow a good portion of its property to be used for this tiny home community. While nearly every other area in town has said “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) over and over, Glencliff stood up to the criticism from its neighborhood and said “Yes, In My Back Yard.” This is surely an experiment in faith and no one is more hopeful for its success than I am. I was proud to sit outside last week at the place that meant so much to me and listen to the story of how this tiny home community came to be.
We are in a season of Stewardship in our church—a season of asking you to give generously to support our budget for 2018 and I know you will. I would remind us all that stewardship is far more than money. Glencliff UMC has shown us all one amazing act of stewardship. Praise be to God!