Using our Space, Allowing for Grace (and maybe different kinds of Celebrations)

Using our Space, Allowing for Grace (and maybe different kinds of Celebrations)

I remember the Pandemic Admin Team and Elders Meetings as we determined what the best way to handle our 100% remote congregational life.  And I remember when the ideas were floated that, while we were not in the space, physically, we could use that time to “spruce up the place.”  We knew the Sanctuary needed painting, but how to put up all of the scaffolding and, while it was up, where would we worship?  And as the plans grew and grew and the $300 (thousand) for 300 (year anniversary) plan was hatched and executed (and grew to over a half a million dollars), my mind started racing.

The way we would envision the use our space began to drastically change.  Rugs became hardwood floors (so that we have acoustics for musical performances).  Pews gave way to chairs (yes, part of me still has grief for the loss of the pews). Technology was installed and allows us the hybrid worship that we have today. It also lets us “bring” people from afar to weddings and funerals, or other events.

And I joined the Sanctuary Use Committee. Let me also take the time to tell you that, in my youth, I worked catering.  All through college and for years after, and I have catered affairs in people’s homes, in gardens, in barns, in mansions, and, yes, in churches.  And our Committee believes that Old First could be a really attractive site for some catered affairs.  As I was sitting in the tech booth at Annaka and Noah’s wedding rehearsal dinner and the smooth jazz was playing (from Spotify) over the sound system and our screens had a photo slide show, and the family and friends were enjoying the food and the company I turned to Michael and said, “this is how we envisioned our space could be used!” Interestingly, they did not have alcohol at their event, but others might want a champagne toast or some wine with dinner.

At Old First, we have long thought about arts uses — concerts, theater, even movies. And gatherings of the wider church. But also about weddings with their receptions, and other family celebrations and gatherings. Seminars and lectures might be possible too. There are likely other uses we haven’t yet imagined. Michael always uses as an example Bob Robinson’s retirement party as a professor from Lutheran Seminary: wouldn’t it have been nice for us to host that dinner that included thanksgiving and reflections on his ministry?

But, in order to attract people and these other uses from beyond our own community, we on the Sanctuary Use Committee feel we need to remove the absolute restriction on the consumption of alcohol in our spaces.  We went to the Elders with a proposal that ensures that applications to use our space might also include a request for permission for the responsible use of alcohol. That request for permission can be reviewed by our Committee on a case by case basis (and communicated to the Elders). There will also be policies in place as guardrails, such as: 

  1. We set up an Alcohol Permit Committee to assess the renters requests for permission to have alcohol at their event.  
  2. Alcohol may only be served by a caterer who is licensed to serve alcohol. The committee will provide guidance on the allowance of the type and quantity of alcohol as needed.
  3. Renter’s Insurance must be purchased for any use of our space for events. This is standard PA practice.
  4. Alcohol served must be paid for by the event host; no cash bars will be allowed.
  5. Old First will always have a staff member present to monitor the event and to enforce the details of the alcohol policy. This staffing will be paid for by the renter.
  6. Alcohol service will be curfewed as necessary, with time limits provided depending on the event.
  7. Restrictions of certain uses of the venue or parts of the venue during Alcohol consumption will also be provided.

The relaxed policy allows us to respond in the affirmative to inquiries about space use and to not remove us from consideration from those who are seeking a venue for their events.  The Committee is appreciative for the Elders’ review and approval of our proposal and look forward to working with our guests to ensure that each event is amazing and also respects our space. If you have any questions, please feel free to speak with the members of the Sanctuary Use Committee: Bula B., Bruce C., Adam S., Shelly S., Trixie S-R. 

Yours in service, 

Adam S.