The Madison Apartments are coming down! The three dilapidated buildings on the northwest corner of our church property have long been a security risk, a safety hazard, and an eyesore. Our grand plans to remodel the structures for the expansion of Heal the City’s free clinic were scuttled by the YMCA’s outright donation of their building on Sixth Street to the non-profit group last year. And, after much prayer and study, the decision has been made to just tear them down. This is just the very beginning stage of a long range plan for our church and a future capital campaign to fund those plans and ministries. In the meantime, please drive carefully this week around that corner of Central’s property.
After twelve years of faithful congregational ministry at Central, we said goodbye today to Matthew Blake. Sort of. Matt and his wife Katie have made the decision to leave fulltime congregational ministry and pursue small scale farming and the salsa industry. Matt’s got farming in his blood and he’s eaten enough hot sauce in his lifetime that he probably has some of that in his blood, too. So, they’ve bought a nice little spread just east of Canyon where they’ll raise their own tomatoes, peppers, and onions and produce enough of his “Matchstick Salsa” to feed everyone who wants it, not just staff members and family.
Matt led our young singles ministry here at Central and has been a vital part of our foreign missions efforts and our visitors and new members ministries. His quiet, mild-mannered, even-toned personality appears to be in conflict with his wicked sense of humor and his propensity for playing clever pranks, but it actually all works perfectly together: he lulls you off your guard with a reflective soliloquy on the contemplative prayer life of a Benedictine monk while he’s plotting to replace the nameplate on your office door or fill the bed of your pickup with foul objects.
Needless to say, we laugh a lot around here together as a church staff, and Matthew is a big part of that.
We also pray together and dwell in God’s Word together as a church staff, and Matthew is a big part of that, too. I’ve known him and worked with him for only four-and-a-half years, but his insights and personal commitment to a disciplined life of following Christ have impacted me and every minister and every elder at this place. I’m forever grateful for the practices and disciplines he’s introduced to me that help me better engage our God. And I’m equally grateful for his imprint in those same areas on the leadership of our church. We’re all thankful for that.
Matt’s a good man. His heart belongs to our Lord. It’s clear to anyone who’s paying attention.
I’m excited for the Matchstick Salsa thing. I’m happy for Matt because he’s so clearly committed to chasing this passion. He’s really alive for this thing. It’s fun to see. But, there’s a part of me — I’ve shared this with him three or four times — that is sad, too. Matt’s a good minister. He’s a good congregational minister. God has blessed him with gifts for leadership and teaching and spiritual direction and I regret that we’re losing that. Of course, he’s not stopped being a minister. Our Father will have plenty of opportunities to work through Matthew in some of the same, but also in some very different, and maybe even potentially better, ways. But not having Matt as a congregational minister in our churches feels like a loss. That’s probably more my problem than anybody else’s. No, it’s definitely my problem.
Matt and Katie and little Lydia are staying here at Central and will remain vital members of our Central church family. For that, I’m grateful. The really good news is that now I won’t be nearly as hesitant when I choose a gift from under the tree at the staff Christmas party. I won’t have to wonder if he’s sabotaged my office or my truck. But if I’m going to eat some of his salsa, now I’m going to have to pay for it.