Last Wednesday marked the 1-year anniversary of Tricia and I moving from Simsbury, CT to Sunderland, MA. We left with high hopes and great expectations for launching imagine/northampton. We knew it would not be a cakewalk, but we are pioneers of a sort, so blank canvasses are not frightening propositions to us.
However, I must say right off that bat this Kingdom adventure appears the hardest one we have undertaken to date with the possible exception of moving to Stahlstown, PA in 1974 to be a part of ELAN, one of the pioneering, if not the pioneering Christian fusion band.
What have been the highlights of this first year?
1. Soon after we moved, we went to England to lead the Spiritual Formation Workshops at the C.S. Lewis Institute's Oxbridge, 2008 in Oxford and Cambridge. (Not directly related to imagine, but we were able to make connections).
2. We leased our present offices in Northampton just before we left for England.
3. We did an Open House in September and met people in the community.
4. We led 6 Conversations at the Northampton Friend's Meeting House from October, 2008 to February, 2009 laying out our Core Values and continuing to connect with the community.
5. We did 5 Strategic Prayer Huddles in March and April, 2009.
6. In May, we launched a weekly imagine group comprised of people who have shown interest in continuing with us. 2 Sundays/month we gather to study the Book of Acts and learn spiritual formation tools. 1 time/month we do a fun thing together.
7. Catherine connected with folks doing a soup kitchen in Northampton and we plan to participate. We also visited the Northampton Survival Center to see how we could support them.
8. Prior to my knee injury, I was meeting with different folks in the community to build relationships and increase interest.
9. We have procured the site for our first worship in September: The Northampton Center for the Arts.
10. We have found musicians to help us lead worship.
11. Kit and Tricia will move onto Main Street in Northampton on July 30th.
12. Jim and Karin LaMontagne have sold their house in Simsbury and look to be moving to a new home in South Hadley in August.
13. Matt and Karen Bayne moved to temporary quarters in Tariffville, CT and are looking for an apartment in Northampton - to move in August.
14. Jim has landed a new job and will begin in late July.
15. We have created a means by which people will be able to be assimilated into our community if they so choose.
What have been the challenges?
1. We were not able to move into Northampton right from Simsbury.
2. Imagine/northampton continues to be seriously under-funded, especially in terms of new donors.
3. I had a very serious knee injury in February that took me out of the game for 4 months.
4. The costs for living (rent and skyrocketing utilities' costs) here were far more than Tricia and I anticipated creating almost constant financial stress.
5. Jim had his position eliminated the day before Thanksgiving and searched for 7+ months for a job.
6. Matt and Karen were surprised to have to move from their quarters in Simsbury to a temporary place before moving here.
7. The spiritual warfare in this area is unrelenting and of a degree we have not experienced. It wears Christians down because of its constance.
8. We still do not have enough counseling and spiritual direction clients in Northampton.
9. We have not been able to connect with artists or influencers in the town like we'd hoped.
We are still here after a year and no one is quitting. We have been able to connect fairly well with the Christian community around us, especially some of talented and influential people. We are encouraged by that. Also, the people who come to the imagine group seem to care for the vision and mission.
All of us on the team have had our faith tested substantially. We are having to learn tenacity in discouragement, perseverance in setbacks, and a certain sense of humor about it all. We still hold to the vision and mission. We desire to be a part of God's awakening this area again. We know we have something to offer, but we also know that only Jesus will make it happen.
Please pray for us. It makes a huge difference.