First Christian Church is opening their doors to give nonprofits and other groups space to meet.
“Like many churches, during the week we’re often empty,” Kyrmen Rea, a Senior Minister at First Christian Church, said.
In addition to congregation and Sunday services, the church also hosts a weekly Welcome Table Breakfast from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.
In August, the church hosted a community conversations event which included breakfast and time to tour the space in hopes of beginning new relationships within the community. Rea said 40 nonprofit groups were invited and 18 nonprofit groups attended. Some of the groups in attendance include Red Cross, City of Bloomington and New Leaf New Life.
“I think our church is really excited about building these new relationships,” Rea said.
First Christian Church has been located at 206 E. Kirkwood Ave. since 1919. The church also owns the Habitat for Humanity building next door. This building used to serve as the Campbell House, a place for members of the clergy for First Christian Church, but it has served as Habitat for Humanity for the last 19 years.
Between both spaces, First Christian Church has 27,000 square feet of space.
Rea said that many downtown churches have been heading to the suburbs because maintaining churches downtown can be so expensive.
“We’re seeing this as a new piece of our identity of what it means to be a downtown church,” Rea said.
Rea said this fall, First Christian Church participated in an education program, Sacred Places Indiana, through Indiana Landmarks to think about how they can remain relevant. Indiana Landmarks said that this program trains congregations in stewardship of the church, community engagement and fundraising. Rea said this program inspired First Christian Church to collaborate with local nonprofits.
“There are so many needs in the community that we would be arrogant to say that we, as a church, can meet those needs, so instead we partner with people who have expertise in things we don’t have expertise in,” Rea said.
Some groups who utilize the space include free recovery groups, including groups for those in recovery from a narcotic addiction.
Rea said the church is talking with other counseling services and small businesses. They are also negotiating with a local organization who wants to use the 1,200 square foot apartment that is part of the church.
Rea said too many groups trying to utilize the space at the same time may soon become a problem.
“We are around the corner, I think, from being a place to sometimes have to tell people no because we have conflicted activity, but right now that’s not the case,” Rea said.
One of the church’s first relationships was with Stages Bloomington. Stages is a nonprofit that provides children and teens with theatre-arts education. Stages uses the space to hold rehearsals and classes for upcoming performances.
According to Rea, some of the kids from Stages performed following worship in April.
Rea said that she would be happy to have the church so busy that it would be hard for her to concentrate on her work, as opposed to the emptiness of the church in the past.
“I would love to have to leave and go find someplace else to work because there’s too much going on here, that’d be great,” Rea said.