How to build a parsonage

I’ve always loved the idea of a “barn raising”.  The whole community gets together and does their part in helping a family build their barn.  Some people heave parts of the building into place.  Other people are cheering on from the sides.  I imagine still others are making sure there is enough food on hand for everyone, and that someone is watching all the kids.

I’ve always loved that idea because I love how it’s such a powerful view of what genuine community looks like.  We’re not exactly raising a barn, but something like that…

Before I ever arrived at Murphy First United Methodist Church, the wheels were well into motion for building a new parsonage.  In the United Methodist world, lots of churches have parsonages where their pastor’s family lives.  Maintaining a parsonage is part of the bigger picture of “itinerancy” (our denomination’s practice of moving pastors around from time to time in order to match the right pastor with the right church for the sake of ministry).

To make this happen, Murphy FUMC formed a Parsonage Committee that studied requirements by our denomination’s Book of Discipline, found a lot and selected a house plan, made arrangements with builders and banks, planned details of the house, and consulted with the District and Annual Conference offices.  They’ve been to countless meetings and signed lots of forms. In short, they’ve done a ton of work, and still are!

It takes all that work and more to build a parsonage.  At the end of the day, the church is building not just a house, but a home, and one that will be lived in by pastor’s families for decades.  There’ll be birthdays and holidays.  Kids will grow up there, and married couples will grow older there.  Special meals and everyday meals shared around the table.  A place for gathering and fellowship, and growing in God’s grace.  What a gift!

This past Sunday (1/6/19), we invited the congregation to visit the under-construction parsonage to write blessings and Bible verses on the still-exposed frame.  The reason for doing this is summed up by one of the Bible verses that was written on the wall: “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).  This parsonage is built with blocks and lumber, shingles, wiring, and plumbing.  But more than that it’s been built by God.

Through this process, I have been seeing how God builds homes through a community of generosity and love.

Isn’t that the hope for every home?  For your home?  That the structure of your family is framed in generosity, where there’s always enough room and time, and even when there isn’t, you make it so by sacrificing some of your own.  That your home is a place where other people can peer in and say, “Oh, that’s what God’s love looks like–it’s patient and kind, it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, it’s full of joy.”

And it takes a community.  People freely sharing their lives with one another.  Helping each other.  Sacrificing for one another.  Sharing each other’s joys and burdens.  Playing and laughing together.  And a community that embodies Jesus’ teaching that we love one another.

I’m deeply grateful for the way that this parsonage is being built by the whole church.  And our family is grateful and blessed to be the first one to live in this special home.  I wonder how we can get help from God and build all of our homes in the same way–as a community of generosity and love?

I want to share with you the pictures of the blessings and verses that were written on the walls.  Soon they’ll be covered up by insulation and drywall.  But these kinds of blessings don’t usually stay covered up; they’ll come to life, through the grace of God, for everyone who walks through these doors.  Because God is the builder.

If the writing is too small to read, you can click on one photo and then scroll through the pictures like a slide show.