Except for four years of graduate school in Dallas and two years in Florida, I’ve lived in San Antonio my entire life. I was born at Ft. Sam Houston and, through the years, have lived in various parts of the city. I graduated from Central Catholic High School, at one end of N. St. Mary’s Street, and finished my undergraduate studies at the other end of the street at Trinity University.
I remember when Wonderland of the Americas (formerly Crossroads Mall) was Wonderland Shopping City. I attended Hemisfair ’68 and remember when the Dallas Chaparrals became theSan Antonio Spurs in 1973. North Star Mall used to have a Handy Andy grocery store where Macy’s now stands, but we still did most of our shopping downtown. We’d usually take Houston Street from the East side of San Antonio, where we lived, all the way into town. I have vivid recollections shopping at the huge downtown Joske’s store. When my grandfather and I were ready for a break from shopping with my mom, we’d go to the basement level of the store to grab a hot dog and root beer.
It’s hard for me to believe that the city that holds so many amazing memories – most of which are attached to the people that have come in and out of my life – is the second largest in Texas (behind Houston) and the seventh largest in the United States. Those who would call the Alamo City the biggest small town they’ve ever been in compliment us. It simultaneously holds the charm and folksy nature of a small town with, increasingly, the amenities one can find in larger cities.
In 1992, a group of friends came together to start something new. I don’t know if they fully realized it at the time, but this faith community would become part of the fabric of San Antonio in a unique and unassuming way, very much taking on the character of the city it now serves. The ethnic, political, cultural and economic diversity that marks my hometown is clearly reflected among the people of City Church.
Like San Antonio, City Church has grown. The DNA of the church remains firmly in place, but its reach goes far beyond the property lines at the intersection of Bandera and Braun Rd. Partnering with organizations like the San Antonio Food Bank and sponsoring events like the 48 Hour Film Project, City Church is an active participant in the life of this city, going well beyond just creating an alternate culture for people who already believe. We are seeking to be a redemptive agent to the culture that already exists.
A couple of years ago, my friend Mark and I had the privilege of meeting with two faculty members of theExecutive MBA program of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Apparently, one of the professors had done some initial research on City Church. He, apparently, hasn’t yet embraced faith in Christ and said that as an outsider, we don’t look like a church.
As he explained his childhood experiences of a heavy-handed, dogmatic, fear-mongering organization that bred guilt as a means of obedience, I have to say that we took his assessment of us as the highest compliment. The goal of deconstructing church (with a small “c”) to create an environment that has, at its heart, a commitment to loving God and loving people appears to be moving in the right direction.
Somewhere along the way, we became so attuned to the life of the city and its people that it’s almost as though the two are tracking along the same path. When you walk in the doors of our church on any given weekend, you will see the face of San Antonio. With all of the outstanding churches in our city, I think this is one of the things that sets City Church apart. It has grown beyond the Northwest neighborhood where it resides to become a true microcosm. It isn’t the largest gathering of believers and certainly not the wealthiest. But, that just sounds a lot like San Antonio.
As City Church deepens its relationship with this community, it will find new ways to accomplish its mission to change lives, heal the hurting and give hope to those who have been caught up in the challenges of life.
I can’t wait to see where this goes.
Find out more about City Church at http://www.sacitychurch.com