I attended a meeting of Central West District pastors to learn first-hand about the launch of a new church start on September 8, 2013 called City Square Church. It is the “brain-child” of two of our younger pastors: Rob Rynders (formerly campus minister at ASU Wesley Foundation) and Brian Kemp-Schlemmer (former associate pastor at Desert Skies UMC). Both these men have energy for the exhaustive work of starting a new church. They have the hope and vision of youth, and the spirit of passion to spread God’s word in a new and different way in the community.
We were told that the concept behind this new kind of church is to be “hyper-localized.” It means meeting folks in locally owned and operated business (coffee shops and restaurants) rather than in the big chain establishments (Starbuck’s & Appleby’s). They set out to utilize the community and its assets to meet and build relationships with those outside the “regular” church. This includes persons of other faiths, those disenfranchised by the established church, those disappointed or not enthralled with their former church.
They have already begun about five small-groups and have done several Sunday morning services. Currently they use their laptops, cell phones and a “floating” desk in an office building as their “office.” Worship is being held at the Phoenix Center for the Arts at 1202 N. 3rd Street.
Their mission is the same as the denomination: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world;” but they are doing it quite differently than most churches. They are not focusing on increasing membership with the goal of building an edifice with a name on the cornerstone. Their focus is to show how God works in the world; in the community; in the lives of those in the neighborhood with whom we have contact.
They consider City Square more of a missionary movement than a new church-start. City Square Church is an intergenerational effort moving towards a spiritual rather than religious endeavor. They believe that faith communities need to be in conversation about relationships, not membership, in order to help each other on their individual paths to being a Christian in the world.
It is definitely “out-of-the-box” in terms of contacts, meeting places and spaces, and worship style. They are doing innovative things to present a side of Christianity that is not usually portrayed in the press; to change the impression that many people have of Christians. They are partnering with a local outreach programs like Justa Center and a school for homeless youth who have identified themselves as gay, lesbian, trans-gendered or bi-sexual and are disenfranchised by schools, friends or family; along with other urban ministries. Their benchmarks include 8 small groups by October, 2013; increasing the number of participants entering into conversations of faith; and transforming individuals through participation in community activities of compassion and justice.
Our District superintendent, Gary Kennedy, is asking three things of the West District congregations in supporting City Square Church: being in prayer for its success and sustainability; viewing downtown Phoenix as our missionary field; occasionally attending one of their services as a show of support and strength, especially this fall.