As many of you know, the Prairie Street Brewhouse is undergoing a huge renovation. When all is said and done, there will be a restaurant, brewery, coffee shop, office spaces, banquet facility, eleven condos, and a marina. Pretty cool!
However, in recent decades, the Prairie Street Brewhouse was mostly empty and abandoned. Like many buildings in Rockford, not many people considered it to have much value. It was a symbol of what “used to be”. Empty and life-less. Another reason not to go downtown Rockford.
But along came a small group of people. People with vision and imagination. People willing to invest. To sacrifice. People who believed the building had value. That downtown had value. And people willing to do the work associated with transformation. With restoration. With making things new.
Now people are looking forward. Anticipating better things ahead. Excited about the once abandoned building. Talking about all the new things happening in downtown Rockford.
It is a great story.
All great stories involve transformation.
And I believe it is a great place for a church to meet. It is a symbol of the work the church is called to do- a deep metaphor for Grassroots. Here are four reasons why I am excited that Grassroots is meeting at the Brewhouse:
1) Downtown. As I have talked to more people about the history of Rockford, I have learned that a number churches (and businesses) used to be located downtown. While there are great churches downtown, there are a number who have left downtown or closed their doors. I am excited to be moving into downtown, not out of it. To invest. To sacrifice. To see the value of downtown and the people who live/work here. To do the work associated with transformation, with restoration, with making things new.
2) The River. As I have talked to people about the history of Rockford, I have learned that the river is a literal and metaphoric symbol of division (economic, racial, etc.). The church of Jesus is called to break down dividing walls, and be a people of reconciliation and healing. I think gathering on the banks of the river is powerful and important. Because what once was the dividing wall is now going to be ground zero for reconciliation and healing in the city of Rockford.
3) The Brewhouse. The fact that the Brewhouse was once abandoned, life-less, run down, and of little value is meaningful to me. What is more meaningful is that it is now being restored, filled with life, and of great value! The Brewhouse is a symbol of what the church should be doing with people. God is in the business of taking broken things and fixing them. God is in the business of restoration. And if it is God’s business, it is the church’s business.
4) Springs of Water. I am not the type to get many visions. But about a year ago, I had a vision of a huge spring of water coming up from downtown Rockford. Specifically, it was bursting forth from the Brewhouse. I did not tell too many people about it, but eventually shared it with an employee at the PSB. When I did, he told me that the reason the Brewhouse was originally built at its current location (as a Brewery) was because there was three natural springs that came up in that exact location. Since then the springs have been paved over. I think a lot of things in the city, and a lot of peoples’ hearts, have been paved over. But I think God wants to break through the pavement. I see a huge spring of living water bursting forth in downtown Rockford. Do you?