At our official opening in September 06 we said that we are a church plant who plants churches. It was a statement of faith rooted in who we are because we were a church planted from City Centre Church on Jasper Ave. We have since re-visioned Church Planting calling it Urban Mission. Urban Mission is going out, Bridging Christ and culture in another context, which may be a different physical space a different social space or both.
Since 2006 we have helped give life to:
Matt and Michelle Glombick at Epic student church on the U of A Campus.
Shawn and Kate Birss at The Cross – a punk Anarchist community in Strathcona.
We have supported travelling Art’s missionaries Gary and Karla Adolphe.
Just over 2 years ago Dave Von Bieker gave life to “I Love Artists.” Dave is a missionary sent and supported by Urban Bridge Church to Artists on Alberta Avenue. He will be sharing some exciting developments in few minutes. Before he does let’s talk about what Urban Mission means.
It is Incarnational living thanks to (Reclaiming Mission: Gods in journey into the far country and our participation in it David Fitch Blog Aug 31 2011)
Incarnation refers to the coming of the Son of God into world to be with/among us in Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection. The incarnation was Jesus of Nazareth engaging our world with the gospel some two thousand years ago. As followers of Christ we worship this incarnation, the divine Son who became a man. But the incarnation does not end there. The historical Jesus is present today. His spirit in each who worships him; known collectively as the church. We the church being “his body” in the world, bring Christ’s presence into the world joining with the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for His mission.
Jesus command to his disciples, to us, is in the present tense; “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
We join the mission God has set into motion. Urban Bridge church does this a number of ways including:
Mercy – serving the poor and disenfranchised (Matt 25: 35-40).
Urban Mission – Being Christ in the context to which we are called and proclaiming the gospel (Luke 10:1-18).
Urban Mission is leaving, in the best case it is like leaving home with its comforts and security. We don’t leave home all at once. Leaving home begins the first day we go to school. Many of us first day of school photo of our children: new clothes, glasses, backpack, missing teeth.
As we mature we develop a healthy discontent, need to be independent, I say healthy because the healthy home is a catalyst for change. A healthy home increases the confidence to leave; The more you feel the safety and comfort of home the more you are comfortable with going out. It is the natural order of things to leave home, to start a new life.
It is the same for the Church, for Urban Bridge Church. Dave Von Bieker has been leaving this home Urban Bridge for a while now. As stated earlier, in 2009 he began Iloveartists a redemptive presence to Artists on Alberta Avenue.
Urban Bridge Church is living its value again. With our encouragement and support he is going to create a physical presence on 118 avenue, An Art Space. It is best conveyed by story.
Art Space Launch Sunday
Claire is a painter who has moved onto the Ave in the past year. She is still getting to know the area, and walking one day she sees a curious sign outside a bright red storefront. It is simply white, framing a red heart with a hole in the centre. There are no words. It’s open, so she walks in to see what it’s all about. The room is small and uncluttered. It’s still and empty except for one person sitting, reading in the corner, who welcomes her in to look around. There is atmospheric music playing, which Claire later learns has been created for the space by Edmonton musician Andrew Mulcair. The clean white walls frame a near perfect square, with a wide-open centre where two chairs and a coffee table wait. On the table she notices a magazine called “Image” and another book left by some earlier visitor. The chairs look comfortable, but Claire is new here, so she returns to the walls.
On the first wall she reads “Currency” in bold. Underneath she reads that this is a group exploration of money and it’s relationship to our lives and the creative process. At the end of the statement she reads that each piece displayed is actually currency itself. This is an interactive exhibit, inviting community members to create works themselves and bring them in for trade. They are free to remove a work from the wall and take it home, so long as they replace it with a work they have made about Currency. This possibility gets Claire’s mind racing and she nearly wants to leave for her home studio. Instead she takes in what is here. On a plain white stand sits a clay sculpture of an open cloth bag, spilling out ancient silver coins. It is called “thirty”. A painting on the opposite wallshows a fist clenching so tight as to produce blood from it’s own palm, but what runs down instead is liquid, metallic gold. Someone else has made a collage out of monopoly items. The final wall displays a massive reproduction of an American dollar bill.
Claire walks over to the person in the corner and asks, “what is this place?” It’s the first of many questions Claire and others will ask in the Arts Space, known only as BleedingHeart, and more often by a picture than text. “Is this for real? The part about taking apiece home”? That is her second question. The worker explains that it is, and she is invited to participate. She hands her a program of events happening at Bleeding Heart over the three months that Currency is running. A film showing of Exit Through The Gift
Shop, a workshop for artists on applying for grants and a clothing swap interest her. She notices a group meeting monthly to discuss Jesus’ views on money in the New Testament. She reads about a worship experience featuring works by Currency artists two months from now in an old Anglican cathedral, and the questions bubble across her face. The worker recognizes the curiosity and explains that the art space has been created to explore the spiritual dimension of art, and is supported by a local church.
Spiritual support is available for artists. Claire has some questions about this, but she doesn’t ask them now. Instead, she browses a bookshelf next to the worker. She spots book called “Good Taste, Bad Taste and Christian Taste” and it reminds her of some bad church experiences she had years ago. She thinks it’s a funny title and the worker encourages her to take it home. This is a resource library for the community, she explains.
Claire’s story has yet to come true, but it represents an opportunity to create a space and serve a community. And her story will not be the only one. Many other stories will begin in the Arts Space, and watching them unfold is the exciting part.
Dave and Darrell Q&A
Why are you going?
The simplest way to answer is that I’m going because of Claire. Claire is made up of course, but Claire exists, too. I’ve met her and I’ve met him time and time again, living and serving on Alberta Avenue. These people are compassionate, ethical, creative and talented children of God, and they are everywhere. Pick up a copy of the Rat Creek Press and you’ll read about them. Visit The Carrot or the Nina Haggerty Centre or the Avenue Theatre or Kaleido Fest next weekend, and they’ll be there, serving coffee or building a stage or singing karaoke or cleaning a public park or hoola hooping. Many of them are deeply spiritual, and they are seeking, but they are not looking towards the Church. I can understand this because not that many years ago I felt like my creative gifts were at best a harmless distraction and at worst a harmful diversion from my faith. I did not see any healthy models for an art that took faith seriously, or a faith that took art seriously. Offering a model like that would go a long way. There are people like me, and people with their own questions and reservations. Some people may have had bad church experiences in the past, maybe even related to their art. Some of them may feel church is not an option because they don’t agree with certain political views, or they are part of the LGBT community. They are not coming, but that shouldn’t be good enough for us. Christ still loves them and is looking for people to love them in His name. I want to be one of those people. I want to love and serve all of the people Claire represents. I want to enrich their lives and have them enrich mine. And I want to introduce them to Jesus, because I think they’d really like Him.
Where is the art space going to be located?
Somewhere on 118th Ave, also called Alberta Ave. It’s important that it’s easy to find and accessible. Street level space is important. A space either right on the Ave, or just off on a side street is important. It would be ideal to tie into the arts district that is already exploding between 94th and 90th streets.
Why Alberta Ave?
I’ve never cared about community until I moved into Parkdale, near Alberta Ave. Now, I cannot go anywhere along the Ave without seeing someone I know, and usually several people. I can’t think of anywhere on earth more exciting to be a part of than Alberta Ave right here and right now. There are more artists living in this area than anywhere in the city. The city government believes in this area. Business owners proudly display signs declaring “We Believe in 118”. You get the sense that redemption is possible for this whole community because you can see changes every month. Buildings are being refaced and painted. New events, festivals and community groups are springing up. I wouldn’t be involved in community at all if it weren’t for Alberta Ave getting into my heart. I cannot imagine my life without the Popular Bakery, or The Carrot, or the Italian Centre or Batista’s Calzones, or Pho King, or the Alberta Ave Community League or The Nina Haggerty Centre or the festivals. It’s a big, growing list.
I understand the reservations about Alberta Ave and it’s history. Its imperfections are part of what I love about it. The Kingdom should be messy. It’s full or real, down to earth people. 6 years ago, my wife and I were looking for a home, and our specific needs and limited budget brought us repeatedly to the Alberta Avenue area. But we didn’t want to live here. “It’s the ghetto. It’s no place to raise a family”, we thought. But we could afford it.
Just months after moving in our assumptions about the area were cracking. We noticed that we were not the only lower income artsy family on the block. Or even our street. We met our neighbors. We found out about Arts On The Ave, a group or artists working together to revitalize the neighborhood. They’re working at redemption and they’re not even connected to a church. Before long I saw Jesus everywhere around me, redeeming a neighborhood. The theology we are learning at Urban Bridge – being Christian culture – is being lived out every day. I want to be a part of that. A bunch of us want to be a part of that.
It wasn’t long before other people from Urban Bridge started visiting Alberta Ave and volunteering. And then you started moving in. You bought houses. You built houses. You took risks and invested in the community. You’ve inspired the rest of us.
So now, Alberta Ave is this exciting, growing place with a diverse group of economic and ethnic backgrounds all seeking to make our community better. And now Urban Bridge is invested in that community in dozens of ways, many of which have no link to what I’m doing. Now that we’re here and we’ve falling in love with this place, it just makes sense to some of us to come together and do something on a bigger scale. To create a special, sacred space. To make ourselves known and available to serve and be a significant part of positive change on Alberta Ave.
What is the end goal of the art space?
It boils down to this. We want to spread art, faith, hope and love. So it’s about art. It’s about people, and it’s about Christ.
First, Hans Rookmaaker has a book called “Art Needs No Justification”. Art has a way with us, something we cannot put into words but most of us have experienced. It can be transcendent. It can be a space for the Holy Spirit to speak and move. It can challenge us and push us towards positive change and social engagement. CS Lewis writes, “We sit down before the picture in order to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of any art makes upon us is surrender. Look.
Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.” The best art becomes a conversation.
Urban Bridge has conversations each week and we want to expand that through the power of art. Art is great at posing questions and spurring us to wrestle. Creating a space for Good Art is a worthy goal in and of itself. We hope to dialogue with the community through their art and ours.
Second, we want to love people, whatever their needs are. We want to be there for them and serve them and get to know them and do life with them. We want to create a place where people find hope and love and acceptance. When we screw up, we want to err on the side of love. We want to see how far a community based on the unconditional love of God can really go.
In all of this, we can’t forget that we want to draw people closer to Christ, because He’s the one who got us into this mess in the first place. We want to make disciples. We want to create a safe space for people to explore faith, as they are ready. From there, we want to gather with those people into community. We want to find a way to serve together, to love together and to worship together that makes sense for us. In that sense, we will be starting a new church community.
What form will that community take?
It will depend entirely on the community, which is to say the people involved. You’d be better off to ask Claire.
It will start with a community of Urban Bridge people and a few others. That will likely mean regular prayer, bible study, serving together and some form of worship experience. Really basic stuff. It certainly won’t start with any type of weekly church service.
While I won’t rule anything out, I imagine the community being far more organic than a regular Sunday morning meeting somewhere. Worship may be more infrequent than that. I think Christ has to remain our centre, and the Bible is a really important book to keep us grounded and stretching and wrestling. I want to see what it looks like when artists worship in the way most natural for them. I imagine it’s going to be beautiful.
The team who leaves home this year will decide what shape all of this takes.
Who is going with you?
That’s a good question. A lot of people, I hope. I think this dream will get a lot of hearts beating as it has mine. Right now, I can introduce some people who have committed to make this happen:
Josh and Jessica Culling
David and Jeanne and Andrew Williams
Kevin and Kerri Stennes
I hope more of you will chat with me and have a coffee with me in the next couple of weeks and let me know you want to be a part of this, too.
How can we support you?
I’m thinking and praying about five key needs;
1) We need a team
Help with administration,
Help with pastoring, help volunteering at the art space
Help putting together shows
2) We need wisdom
3) We need a space
4) We need money
About $3000 per month (rent, expenses, salary)
5) We need prayer
As followers of Christ we worship this incarnation, the divine Son who became a man. But the incarnation does not end there. The historical Jesus is present today. His spirit in each who worships him; known collectively as the church. We the church being “his body” in the world, bring Christ’s presence into the world joining with the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for His mission.
What is your art space?