BLACKSTONE Q & A | Dec 3, 2017

Directly after the announcing that Reunion Back Bay would begin meeting in Blackstone Innovation School in January, we held a Town Hall meeting for people to ask some questions that come to mind concerning the move. 

Q: It seems like the new location is a little bit farther for those using public transportation. Do you have thoughts on that?

A: Yes, we have a lot of thoughts on that : ). Green line riders will be most effected in this move. Those people will now get off at Copley and it is a straight shot walk from there down Dartmouth St. Our staff walked it last week and it took from 10 to 15 minutes. There is a bus that runs from Copley and drops off right at the school. From the orange line it is a 10 minute walk. Silver line drops off directly at the school. Also, for drivers there are two free parking lots that we will have access to with approximately 40 spots and street parking is free.

We met with the community liaisons a few times and they are actually from the Dominican Republic. They knew of La Mosca. We have members here that are good friends the principle at Blackstone. There were a lot of things that, as we prayed about it as a community, we were like, “it is not as convenient but it is more neighborhood focused and driven and it is still accessible enough.” Chris Hall

Q: Are we saving money by moving into this space?

A: Yes. It is cheaper, while that is not why we approached Blackstone and was not the motivating factor, we will save about $350 per week. Chris Hall

Q: What will the partnership with a school look like?

A: The vision for the partnership, as we met with their community liaisons and especially as we did our generosity team meetings and had conversations around what are the needs of our neighborhood, what are we passionate about, and what can we partner with? What came out was affordable housing and housing inequality, public education, racial reconciliation. We decided that if public education and Boston Public Schools was a place that deals with all of those things that we should start reaching out to schools for partnership and ways to listen. Blackstone got back to us and wanted to partner. They have a 71% Latino/hispanic population and 22% African American population. Part of the partnership there is that they deal with students and families that wrestle through the effects of affordable housing, food insecurity, racial reconciliation, in a public school system that has had a hard time funding what they need. We want to bless them financially and also through hosting ESL classes, sports programs, cleaning, adopting teachers. Long term, we have asked them what their needs are and how we are equipped to help them. Chris Hall

Blackstone has one music educator for their entire school so that gives us a great opportunity for artists to serve through private lessons, benefit concerts, and donating gear. We are hoping a lot of ideas will come from our community and we are open to people stepping up and taking ownership of this partnership. As we get in there our main goal is that we will first listen. Zak Lewis

While meeting with the community liaisons, and the leaders and principals, they asked, what do you envision partnership looking like? And we said, we really have no agenda here we want to love. We want to come in humbly and hear from you what your needs are before we come in and say here are the needs we are going to meet. All of this that we dreamed about we would not stamp with reunions name. These are things that they have dreamed about and we will join them in. Chris Hall

Q: What are the plans for canvasing and meeting the needs of the community outside of the school?

A: Some of that is hopeful that connections to the neighborhood will come out of the school. Another partner that we are working with this year is called Emmanuel Gospel Center and their office is right across the street from Blackstone. They do training and all sorts of stuff. We are talking to them about coming in and doing something with our community where we learn how do you love and tangibly meet the needs of the community where you  meet, live, and work. Since they are in that neighborhood and they are already doing that work we have reached out to them and are having them come speak to our community on the 17th. We want to partner with them long term because we don’t want to go in there and act like we have all the answers, we want to go in and partner with the places that have been serving that community and doing it well. Chris Hall

Q:  Will you put flyers out to communicate the location change?

A: We are going to try to blast social media and google ads. We have met with a few churches that are already in the neighborhood before making this decision because there are already a lot of churches in the immediate area. As we move we will be a little closer to some of those churches so we have reached out to them and said, “hey, before we make this move we want to hear from you, we are not moving here as a competitive thing, there are a lot of people that don’t know Jesus and we want to do this together. We have talked to the churches about what partnership could look like on a tangible level. Part of that is to not come into the neighborhood and blast them with mailers but to be present in the neighborhood. Chris Hall

We will now be able to bring outdoor signage back that we haven’t been able to do in the Hilton. We have also talked about ways to be present in the SOWA market. Zak Lewis

Q: When will we begin meeting there?

A: The first Sunday in January but we are hoping to do our centralized Christmas Eve service at 4 PM on the 24th. But we are also trying to schedule a work day to come in and clean and make so easy fixes to the building. There will be more announcements in the loop. Chris Hall  –  Edit: After meetings with Blackstone we are aiming for February!

Q: We are technically moving out of Back Bay, does this mean we are rebranding.

A: Yes, although, technically this campus is Reunion Boston and then Reunion Somerville. We don’t lose the Boston thing but we do lose Back Bay, so there will be some rebranding in that. Chris Hall

Q: Can you speak to how this move is helping us move towards the 30 in 30 vision?

A: Part of what we have talked about in the 30 in 30 is being neighborhood driven and locally oriented. Being a church (almost the old parish model) where we take responsibility for the economic, physical, and social wellbeing of the neighborhood God called us to. Not that Back Bay could not accomplish that but as we built relationships in that neighborhood it just made sense, one, to move into that neighborhood, and two, to dream about what that means about how this releases us and sets us up to be a model of how to do that in other neighborhoods. Freeing up some finances frees us up to dream about what this 30 and 30 vision can be. We are actively working towards some residents to come on with us next year to even live into that dream. Chris Hall

We have talked a lot about being a SENT church. It is exciting that we are taking a step to identify a need and taking a risk, being vulnerable, and going where God is leading us. Heather Nichols

Q: What will setup and tear down look like in the new space?

A: In the school we will have on site storage. We are hoping to be able to permanently set up some of our sound and production equipment to share with the school so that won’t be a weekly setup. We are still negotiating that.

Q: Will we be able to use the space throughout the week for classes or rehearsal space?

A: The school is connected to Blackstone Community Center. We have asked the community center if we could have one day a week where we get use of a room where we could do a class, meeting, small group, etc. Our negotiations with Boston Public Schools is done, they will provide gathering space and classrooms for kids. We will have access to the cafeteria. But access to community rooms has to be negotiated through the community center and those are still ongoing.

Comment: My wife Nelia and I came to Boston over 30 years about. We specifically moved to Boston to be a part of an urban church plant. Even though Reunion is 10 years old to me. This is the first instance of us as a community breaking away from traditional concepts of church planting and taking a risk and moving ourselves to more where the heart of the city would be. Two things. One, we are not going to be going into Blackstone and prostalizing or anything of that nature. If you present yourself and you live out what Christ is challenging you to do, you don’t have to carry a banner. Just search out and serve to the heart of people. Second, everyone that is here today is going to be challenged by God’s spirit to make a conscious intentional effort to be what Reunion can be. It is like this mic is a baton and we are going to run a relay and everyone has to take the mic and run their lap. In a sense that is what we are asking you to do. To make a personal commitment to step out of your comfort zone and maybe allow God to touch you in a way that you never been before. To reach people you have never reached before. Les Jackson