When I walk out my door now I see students everywhere. When I walk, when I drive, they are everywhere and it is apparent that school is starting soon. What was a ghost town of Austin natives has now become a campus of over 50,000 students. This means more bikes and longer lines at all the places I frequent...all except church. We have seen no growth, nor will we dramatically feel the push of 50,000 students. We know that the ELCA has a campus ministry, which also happens to be one of the last remaining partnership areas for the ELCA and the LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod). I know that my church at First English is not created for young adult ministry or campus ministry, and I know that it works for all generations of Austin. But, I cannot help but notice that I never saw the people who walk by my house and frequent the places I already have grown to love in Austin even before the students showed up. It almost seems that our church has an image issue. When compared to the hip Austin culture we are surrounded by, like all the music, University of Texas, the unique food (Food Trucks like you've never seen!), and all the hair styles and tattoos (a lot of leg tattoos...unique to warm climate, worthless in the Midwest). Is there anything to do but admit defeat? Of course not, but I do find it interesting that our church fits into the Austin culture more than we realize.
Found in every church pew
Wood carved medallions
I met an architect last week who had connected with my supervisor and wanted to see our church and see where we were at with some internal building ideas. Ben Heimsath is an architect, who happens to have his own blog and speaks to the importance of churches and their architecture. After a wonderful meeting with him, it was then that I realized that First English Lutheran Church is relevant to Austin. We were one of the first churches to be Reconciling in Christ in Austin and have always put a sacred importance in accepting all that come through the doors where they are at. Austin is about the arts and what better a place to support such an idea as First English. With us just taking down our summer art series provided by Texas local artists we celebrated our 75 years by bringing in the gifts that surround us. And for all the retro fans out there in our old school cathedral setup we have these wood carved medallions that can be seen on every pew (some can be seen on this blog) from the 1930's, amazing pieces of art that we have kept to remember our beginnings. Lastly, our cathedral acoustics are outstanding and do not always require electronic assistance. Any music played from the organ to a family band singing old time church songs, or the occasional chants to our choir only amplify the talents and beauty of the worship experience. In our simplest forms we seem to have many of the offerings of the original Austin culture we live in. So yes we are not a church run by young adults and we may not look like the culture, but we understand it, and have been living into Austin's ideals...probably before it was hip to do so.