Sacred Places Spring 2013 - Page 20

A VISIONARY MODEL (continued) changing a culture, and culture changes with a change in mindset.” Church leaders who attended the New Dollars/New Partners sessions were the driving force behind the church’s space sharing and they strongly supported the vision clinic. A committee to evaluate the proposal was created from a broad spectrum of congregation members, allowing them to have ownership of the issue. The congregation’s emotional ties to the building made many members feel vulnerable as they considered welcoming an outside organization into their fold. Congregation members who were skeptical of the idea were included in the decision-making process to be sure that they were given the opportunity to be heard and not dismissed. “We are tied to the building but we aren’t just the past. We are the future, too, and we are changing the idea of our building being a museum.” The Reverend Tom Plumbley, First Christian Church, Fort Worth, TX For Reverend Plumbley and the congregation, the turning point occurred in early July 2012 with the realization that “we are tied to the building but we aren’t just the past. We are the future, too, and we are changing the idea of our building being a museum.” What had been a hardship, the congregation realized, could be transformed into its greatest asset. Importantly, repurposing part of the building into the vision clinic allowed First Christian to expand its mission while also saving the landmark. The Community Eye Clinic of Fort Worth will significantly increase the availability of health services to underserved populations. Children will be able to access sight-saving surgery and other critical care, and the public/private partnership will provide patients with other social services, some of which can be met by First Christian. “The church intends to have a team of volunteers to assist patients in finding resources such as shelters, food pantries, vocational training, and general healthcare resources,” explains Dr. Deakins. “By taking on these roles of patient advocacy, [First Christian] will allow [doctors] to focus on the vision and medical care.” The vision clinic allows the church to impact the community in a significant way, fulfilling its mission of serving the needs of the economically disadvantaged while also allowing the congregation to maintain its building for the future. It is a model of sustainability and adaptive reuse that could be applied to congregations in all communities. Fort Worth City Manager Tom Higgins was the honorary first patient at the new Community Eye Clinic of Fort Worth, housed on the second floor of First Christian Church. 19 • Sacred Places • www.sacredplaces.org • Spring 2013