Sometime in 2016 -- a typical week at Christ Church
This paper is a storyboard--a sketch of what might be or could be. It is not a sketch of what will be. Storyboards shape the story, and begin to inform its telling. Yet, we are many conversations and many more prayers away from any sort of specific detailing.
Church on Sunday- Every Sunday a Resurrection Sunday
150 adults and oodles of children gather in Rockridge for what has become a family-heavy (matching the community’s demographics) worship time and location. Our kids are being taught from the Scriptures and growing up in a church that appreciates the cultivation of a Christian worldview--that trains them up in wisdom to live as salt and light in a post-Christian culture.
Berkeley is rockin’! A large crowd of college students, grad students, artists/young professionals. Yet, there is also a very healthy, rooted, and stable contingent of Berkeley-centric families (also fitting the demographic) that keep the site grounded and growing. The building is busting at the seems. We are jamming 225 adults into our facility, and we know that it is only a matter of time before we launch another Berkeley site. Where should it be? When should it be? We had better pray!
5:00 or 6:00 or 7:00pm
Something awesome is happening in Oakland (Lake Merritt/Adam's Point/or ???). Young Professionals (single and married) are gathering for worship. Some have started families, but the exceptional infant and toddler care is a great Sunday worship assist to these frenzied and first time parents. Some of these kiddos are getting older, and parents are beginning to ask: Should we switch to the Rockridge location? Or, maybe we should start talking about another morning location further into Oakland? This is something to start praying about and seeking wise counsel on. The Word and Sacrament are compelling to friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Some of them haven't been to church in years--some never have. Yet, there is something intriguing about this church that is so ancient and yet somehow so relevant (how ironic!). An urban hipster and a single mom working two jobs would each appreciate this! One thing that our friends, neighbors, and colleagues find so compelling is that our church composite matches the composite of the neighborhood. It is ethnically diverse and attracts people from 20 to 40, with a smattering of the seasoned variety. Its median age is around 37 as this is the median age of the broader community. How did the church begin to match the neighborhood? Did it put out a sign and it just sort of happened? Of course not. The members of this site are so committed to their neighbors and friends, that, well, their relationships mirror the neighborhood, and so, it happened gradually and organically.
In Lamorinda there are currently three parishes, which means about 45 to 50 people (not counting kids!) are driving into Rockridge every Sunday. Where are these people coming from? Well, some have been attracted to the Gospel by our contingent of godly and mature Lamorinda folk. A handful are Christ Churchers that had a third kid and ended up moving through the tunnel. Not everyone stays in Berkeley and Oakland, and well, three healthy parishes through the tunnel really eased the transition. I, for one, am glad that a few Christ Church people do end up moving through the tunnel because I have several non-Christian neighbors that have migrated this direction and I’d love to think that they could somehow still get connected to Christ Church. Tonight these three parishes are gathered together to have a conversation about launching a fourth parish (one of the things that would indicate that a site is needed in Lamorinda). The parish leaders have been working with the Christ Church elders on a strategic staffing model that could help this happen. The Christ Church movement in Berkeley and Oakland is so glad to be so deeply connected to these parishes because, not only do they provide spiritual wisdom and maturity, but they also provide significant financial support (something a 24 yr. old in Berkeley often cannot provide).
Church Plant in the works
A couple outlying parishes in West Oakland have really deepened their ability and capacity to serve their neighbors and community over the past four years. Mercy, Justice, and Peace are happening. The community is being transformed through relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution. Things are going so well that these parishes are becoming convinced that they either need to leave Christ Church and engage with a local church that is flourishing in the neighborhood (as CC blesses their departure and commissions them as missionaries), or, if a local church presence is still lacking, then they should begin raising funds and praying with the Christ Church leadership about a church plant. Many conversation ensue about the right staff, style, and structure for a church in this neighborhood to not only get off the ground, but to also flourish. It is hard for these 30 or 40 people to leave their friends at the Oakland site, but they go with the grace and peace of Christ and guidance of the Holy Spirit!
Church on Monday through Saturday -- Being the Church Everyday
It took a couple of years, but our Parish Model is beginning to flourish. The parishes are maneuverable (appropriately sized at 20 to 30) and missional (gathering together to serve and care for their respective locale). The right balance of meeting together and serving the community has been struck, thus, people involved in Christ Church and in the parish feel cared for and people outside of Christ Church but in the parish also feel cared for. Sunday Operations are not a problem because parishes are animated around preparing the Scriptures, waters of baptism, and the body and the blood for edification for Christians and proclamation to the intrigued and curious. Many groups inside each parish have gelled around spiritual formation. They are appropriately tailored around spiritual development, age and stage, etc. By way of example, the Temescal Parish meets every second Saturday to serve the half-way house located on 50th, and also meets every fourth Friday for dinner and prayer. This parish has 3 different groups in it that meet more regularly. A collection of singles in the group meets on Tuesday nights and have been working through N.T. Wright’s study guide on the Resurrection. Four families have struggled with the juggling act of meeting together weekly so they decided to form two different groups: The four husbands meet on Friday mornings and have been working through Keller’s Gospel in Life curriculum, while the four wives find the teaching at Christ Church to be fantastic :) so they meet every other Thursday night to simply ask the question, “How should the last two sermons gain traction in our lives?”
The Staff and Ordained Leadership
Every elder at Christ Church (all 12 of them) leads a parish, and every deacon (all 30 of them) assists with Parish Care. Each site and parish is appropriately and proportionately represented on the Session and in the Diaconate and this ensures that decisions are made in a manner that benefits everyone and blesses the entire movement. What about the staff? How incredible has it been to have an Executive Director of Operations that has helped us through a lot of growth and ensuing change. The organizational, relational, and emotional health can be attributed to this person’s ability to create efficient and effective organizational structures for the staff, the ordained leadership, the parish and group leadership, and the ministry team leadership.
Eric Gilbert has continued to build a strong (and beautiful) Worship Arts Community. He has more help now with a couple of interns, and he shares his worship leading duties across the three sites with a protege. This allows each site to benefit from Eric’s musical arrangement abilities and presence while also allowing indigenous style and young talent to emerge. Jerry Cambra’s leadership has kept the Berkeley facility that we own singing. It has been cash positive for five years running. We re-financed (again!), and this has allowed us five more years at an incredible interest rate. We are in such a healthy position financially, that we might be getting ready to purchase another building, this time in Oakland.
The Christ Church Kids ministry keeps growing and growing. There is a centralized leadership that allows Katie Garrett to stay involved with the vision and direction, but every site now has a Christ Church Kids director. Each site is different so having indigenous site leadership is important. For instance, Rockridge has seven classes and a discipleship program for middle school and high school students while Oakland just has infant and toddler care. Berkeley’s children’s ministry is almost as big as the ministry in Rockridge. And the middle school students love meeting together (especially when it involves a pizza and movie night in the Cedar Street sanctuary).
The board of Project Peace now has five different churches and three local social service providers represented. The Executive Director is now full time, and the motto (Start with Mercy, Work for Justice, Live for Peace) has taken root and is growing in many neighborhoods. What started as a paintbrush on a middle school mural is now a full tutoring program and weekly meal for single parent families. A group of lawyers from Christ Church provide free legal counsel for several of these parents who can’t afford it. A web developer just build a new website for the school pro bono! One of our Pixar employees does a free animation class once a month for the students. And this is happening all over Berkeley and Oakland!
While we abound in service to our broader community, sin and suffering still creep into our congregation. Thankfully, the counseling center has grown substantially. Under the leadership of Dr. Brian Kay, we have several counselors that are able to work out of two different locations, one in Berkeley and another in Oakland. Their presence is sustaining emotional health, spiritual health, healthy marriages, and healthy relationships.
What about pastoral ministry? Well, our pastoral internship program is thriving. We have two interns onsite in any given year. We have five Ministers of Word and Sacrament. Of these five, three of them are site pastors as each site has an identifiable site pastor. Yet, all five ministers still work closely together and in a collegial fashion with one another. This allows all five to serve across sites and parishes, bringing their unique skills and passions to each. What about Bart and Jonathan? Well, each wrote a book and retired to Hawaii. Bart surfs while Jonathan reads. Seriously, they remain guardians of the Christ Church vision, working closely with the Session, the other ministers, the interns, the staff, the planters, and other ministers in our network to ensure that we are remaining faithful to the mission of Christ. They remain the prominent fixtures of the preaching and teaching ministry, but now that Bart is 40 he is already thinking about his 50th birthday. In 2026, Bart only preaches every couple of months in each of the five sites and three church plants. His job is to mentor the next generation. He simply shows up to preach to remind every church of the grander mission. One 22 year-old in Berkeley remarks to another: “Who is that old guy?” The other responds, “I think he is the guy that helped to start this church like 20 years ago. He comes in ever so often to remind us that we are doing a good job. He is nice enough but his jokes are cheesy--like my dad’s!”
How joyous and pleasurable was this to write! How much more joyous and pleasurable it will be to pray and work toward the Gospel’s flourishing over the next 3 to 5 years. As Sam Wheatley recently reminded us, “God has people in this City!”