Being "Downtown for Good" is a blessing and a challenge. I wake up most days and wonder how we will be "good for downtown." One powerful and expanding program (thanks to Karen Andro, our Director of Outreach Ministries, and her volunteers) we offer in partnership with others is the Outreach ministry we want to be known as "Hope's Home." Many of the volunteers who join in this ministry are not members of our church, yet they are deeply invested in it.
We are also a venue for music, drama and the arts in central Madison. Many groups use our facilities as a rehearsal space. Under the leadership of Ross Cowing, our Director of Music, we are moving to develop a public ministry of music and the arts to become a downtown destination for the arts.
There are one or two other public ministry ventures to be "brought online" in the coming years. We do not want to do these quickly and overwhelm our systems. First we want to put in place a business plan that will enhance our capacity and diversify our avenues of support and contributions to ensure the success of these ventures.
One keen idea was planted by Rev. Phil Blackwell during a transitional meeting I had with him. He observed the numbers of people who cross Dayton Street at Wisconsin Avenue all football season, for Farmers' Markets and summer events on the Capitol Square. Surely, the capacity to invite passersby to join us in service projects, music and food would open us up to become part of the "Buzz of Downtown."
I have a deep wish for First Church to be a destination for study and conversation around issues that are of interest to the government, the university and the church. A series of lunch time forums or late afternoon conversations could engage the constituencies of downtown in a broadening of our mission to nurture diverse journeys.
"Downtown for Good" is a blessing that empowers us to rise to the challenges and embrace them as opportunities to fulfill our mission. Supporting our "Leaping Forward" fund appeal is an opportunity to grow our public ministry.