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Henry Brinton, June 29 2021

Summer Study 4: Daily Wisdom

June 29

Mark 14:32-36 

God’s Will, Not Ours

How do you discover God’s will and follow it? 

Many Christians see a need for affordable housing in their community, since high housing costs can deprive families of the money they need for food, medications, and clothing. But when projects are planned in a community, neighbors often cry NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard!

Here at Fairfax Presbyterian, church members have taken a different stand. They say YIMBY: Yes In My Back Yard. In fact, they are planning a development of townhouses on the church’s property. The houses will be affordable because the residents will buy only the structures, not the land.

When I was on sabbatical in 2017, a number of church members began to meet and talk about what they could do to increase the stock of affordable housing in the community. They knew that church members needed it, their children needed it, and neighbors who worked in nursing homes, schools, and restaurants needed it. They discovered that this was God’s will for them through a process of group discernment.

As a group, they certainly loved their beautiful church property, and they knew that they would face struggles both inside and outside the congregation if they pursued a plan to develop it. But they believed in what Jesus said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However — not what I want but what you want” (Mark 14:36). They knew that God wanted them to sacrifice for their neighbors.   

Their first step was to approach three affordable housing groups and ask each one to make a proposal. To their surprise, the three came back and said, “Let’s work together!” The result was a plan for 10 townhouses to be constructed on the property by Habitat for Humanity, assisted by HomeAid, a contractors’ group that offers supplies and labor. Two of the 10 units will be managed by Homestretch, which moves families from homelessness to sustainable housing. The other eight will be owned by low-to-moderate-income homeowners.

When I returned from sabbatical, I was surprised at how quickly these church members had pulled together a partnership with Habitat, HomeAid, and Homestretch. And I was amazed at the enthusiasm that had been generated by this process of group discernment. Usually, it is hard to get people to join a church committee, but this project quickly attracted over 20 volunteers. When the plan was put to a congregational vote, a super-majority approved it.

Yes, struggles still lie ahead, with proposals to the city council and negotiations with NIMBY neighbors. But when Christians take the time to seek God’s will as a group, all things are truly possible.

Help us to discern your will together, God, and to discover what you want to do in and through us. Amen.

Written by

Henry Brinton


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