Rahn said Grace Church would much rather put its resources into “serving the city with the gospel” than acquiring and maintaining a brick-and-mortar building of its own. He said sharing the building with the other congregations hasn’t been a problem.
“We can hear them a little bit, and I’m sure they can hear us a little bit. But it’s not distracting,” said Rahn. “They accommodate us, we accommodate them. It’s worked out really well.”
By 11 a.m., the Rev. Daniel L. Michel of the Haitian Church of God of Deliverance began to prepare for his service in the main sanctuary, which starts at noon.
A projector screen was set up at the front, displaying song lyrics with the celestial image of the Milky Way in the background.
Clustered toward the front were men sporting dapper suits, women wearing formal hats and white gloves, little girls in dresses, and boys in neat sweater vests. A baby carriage was parked on the red carpet in the center aisle. Members swayed back and forth to the music, with their arms outstretched, singing: “Glorieux nom! Glorieux nom! Glorieux nom! Le nom de Jesus. Precieux Jesus.”
If you had asked the Rev. Mark Peterson, the rookie pastor of First Evangelical Lutheran Chruch, a few years ago, when he was in the seminary in South Carolina, if he expected to ever share a church with congregations from other denominations, the answer would have been a definite no.
“There’s a lot of people using the building on Sunday morning, which was true of this place decades ago,” he said. “It’s like the numbers of people who were once here, but they look different.”
Sharing space at 900 Main St. has resulted in some unexpected partnerships: Grace Chapel and Grace Church now share nursery space for toddlers. Children from the Haitian church attend the First Lutheran’s vacation week Bible school. Grace Chapel and First Lutheran have teamed up to hold joint services and Bible study.
Peterson recalled one rainy day in August when one of the other congregations discovered that the roof was leaking, and its members placed a bucket down to catch the water. If no one had been there to see it, the leak would have gone unnoticed and more damage would have resulted, he said.
So far, the arrangement appears to be a win-win.
“Here’s a mainstream church trying to economically sustain itself by renting out its space,” said Peter H. Beisheim, professor of religious studies at Stonehill College.
“I see something very positive here. . . . The arrangement fosters inclusivity, rather than exclusivity.
“There is a sense of unity in using the same space.”