San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church has been in its location on Danville Boulevard since 1957. That's almost 60 years of operating with the same mission, which is to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
In less churchy language, that means the church's mission is to create a community and programs that inspire and equip people to live and work in their community with the kind of compassion, hospitality and generosity that Jesus demonstrated 2,000 years ago.
One of the differences between a progressive Christian church like ours and other Christian churches is that we don't tend to read the Bible as literally as some. The one thing we are pretty literal about, and absolutely committed to, is the life and teachings of Jesus.
What we see when we read the stories about his life is that he was interested in the whole life of the people he met. Not just their spiritual lives, not just their beliefs about God or their feelings about religion; but their whole lives. He healed their bodies; he talked about their families, their work and how they used their money.
Some in our area have questioned this church's integrity in proposing to build a recreational building.
They argue that creating a "community center" is outside the church's purpose and permission to operate in this location. But we are clear: The mission of the church -- of this church, anyway -- is not just about what we do in an hour of worship on Sunday mornings. It never has been. In fact, the church runs from about 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., about six days a week.
Almost every day, the church's buildings are used for preschool, youth activities, tai chi and yoga classes, 12-step programs and community organization meetings.
Every Friday, a team cooks together in the church kitchen and takes a hot lunch to a center for homeless people in Walnut Creek. Two weeks ago, 200 people were at the church on a Thursday evening to sample apple pies that 3- and 4 year-olds had helped make while they focused all month long on what "goodness" means.
This church has offered programs and services to build community and meet physical needs for as long as it has been in existence. The building that is proposed now does not change the church's mission. It will simply help us to accomplish it more effectively.
Because people in our community tend to be affluent, it's easy to think that people's lives are as stable and as well-kept as their yards appear. But in just the last month, I have heard stories of people's lives that include drug abuse and addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, people living at the edge of their financial and stress-level capacity, and difficult situations as people care for family members.
The church has something to offer these people. The mission of the church includes meeting these kinds of needs. Community -- and the space to create community -- is one of the ways we do that. Sometimes community is created by singing together on Sunday mornings; sometimes by eating meals together or cooking together in the kitchen; and sometimes by doing physical activity together.
That most homes in Alamo and Danville are big enough to have a basketball hoop in their driveway does not eliminate the need for children, youth and adults to have a place to play together. A multipurpose recreational building at this church was proposed by a generous donor who wanted his neighbors in Alamo and Danville to have a place where people -- children, adults, families -- could come together to do healthy, physical activity together.
The church is a vehicle for offering this gift to the community.
What a terrible waste of generosity and goodwill it would be to lose this opportunity to meet a community need.
Kathleen McShane is co-pastor of San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church.