I oversee building projects as part of Abbey life along with my partner in mud and sticks – Andrew Westerback. Many people are not sure that this is a truly spiritual activity and early in my life I would have concurred with this opinion. How is building important to the flourishing of a spiritual community? Wouldn’t it be better if we did not need buildings?
I would like to propose that constructing buildings is at the very heart of spirituality; at least I see it that way, here at Urban Abbey. In my next few posts I’ll explain what I mean. In this article I’d like to focus on how our construction work is about nurturing community.
We build Abbey buildings as community. One of the first ways an individual can be added to the life of our community is by joining our daily routines and taking ownership for making the community flourish. We never build in a vacuum or on “individual” projects. We build as a community. It is in and through relationship that every project is completed. This often extends the completion date of the project by many weeks. But, I like the fact that many people, especially those experiencing mental health challenges, can join our team and find a place to belong. Folks who are part of construction at the Abbey soon know they are not a "project"; they are part of the team building a project. Construction projects are one of the primary ways the Abbey offers acceptance, purpose and meaning to our neighbors.
We do Abbey construction on buildings other than the Abbey. This last two months we did a month of vital upgrades on the interior of Abbey Manor – this is a six-plex next door to us. We house three staff families in this building, an Abbey community member and two foreign students who are new to the city. Each of these five apartments and the hallways in-between needed major overhauls. We also spent a month on a capital project, a house that we are upgrading so that we can sell it and the money can go into the next projects that will occur at the Abbey itself. Construction projects are one of the primary ways we can offer safe and affordable housing for community members who want to pour out their lives for others.
We have volunteers who do incredible construction projects off-site. A team of guys under the supervision of Ken Cullis are currently converting some well used furniture into 24 day-beds for the Urban Abbey Youth Shelter which will be opening soon. This team of men works sacrificially, creatively and lovingly to prepare a space for vulnerable members of our community.
I think that construction is a holy work of God to build deep and lasting community with others in Jesus’ name.