On his first Sunday in a new location at Fifth and Marion in downtown Seattle (the former and historic building of First Methodist Church), Mars Hill pastor Tim Gaydos took note of post-election stories in which some more conservative people and Christians said they no longer felt comfortable in the Northwest (post legalization of gay marriage, post decriminalization of marijuana) and were thinking about heading for somewhere more congenial, say Texas.
“That is exactly the wrong response,” said Gaydos. He turned in his Bible to Jeremiah 29 to quote the word to the faithful centuries ago, “Seek the welfare of the city to which I have sent you.” It is the responsibility of Christians to do just that, said Pastor Gaydos, “to seek the welfare of their city, Seattle.” He called his congregation, “to be the very best citizens of the city in which we live.”
Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw confirms that this is her experience of Pastor Gaydos and the Mars Hill congregation. “I worked with Tim through the Belltown Business Association, [the church was formerly located in Belltown] and found him great to work with. ... We have worked together to improve livability for all residents and businesses in Belltown, and actually picked up garbage together on a Greening Initiative and Neighborhood Clean-Up Day. Several hundred members of his church took part.”
Five years ago Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, founded by Mark Driscoll, opened a downtown location in Seattle’s Belltown, rehabbing an old night club for its first home. Leading up to that opening, Gaydos had been gathering people in his home in the neighborhood for over a year.
Last year the decision was announced to move to the former building of First Methodist Church in Seattle’s financial and government district. The Church entered into a ten-year lease of the site with owner and developer Kevin Daniels.
December 30 was opening Sunday at the new Mars Hill location. Even though the Sunday after Christmas is a low attendance Sunday in many churches, the turnout at Mars Hill Downtown was 1,100. Gaydos estimates the congregation to be between 1200 and 1400 members at present. It is one of the fourteen campuses of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. Outside Washington, Mars Hill also has locations in Orange County, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Portland, Ore.
Gaydos describes himself as a person with “an urban sensibility,” who cares about city people and city problems. Though he grew up in Edmonds, he went to college and seminary in Los Angeles. His wife is from L.A. She, Gaydos and their two daughters live at the Queen Anne end of Belltown. They have a third child on the way, which makes them hopeful that the Seattle Schools will open a new school, as has been rumored, downtown.
Gaydos is, and wants his congregation to be, involved with the people of the city. He described his own participation first as a member, then Vice-President and finally President of the Belltown Business Association, a group with many projects of neighborhood improvement. Additionally, one of their church’s annual service projects is its “Coat Lunch,” where the congregation puts on a fine dining experience for 500 to 600 homeless people, after which all the guests leave with a new coat and a new pair of shoes.
Currently, Gaydos estimates that between 75 and 100 homeless or formerly homeless men, women and children are part of the Mars Hill downtown congregation. “To us, it's all about relationships, building relationships with people.”
Mars Hill is known as hip, but also theologically conservative. Two issues, in particular, tend to put Mars Hill at odds with much of liberal Seattle: views on homosexuality and the role of women.
So I asked Gaydos, “What about gay people and people of other faiths? Are you comfortable working with people like that?” “Absolutely,” said Gaydos.
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