After a few months of consideration followed by over a year of preparation I am pleased to say that I am finally a Cincinnatian. It seemed as if arriving in Cincinnati would never happen but God is more faithful than I which he once again expressed by graciously bringing my wife and I to the Queen City.
Over a year and a half ago, Michael and Laura Clary asked my wife, Teriea, and I to consider moving to Cincinnati to be part of their yet to be church. The prospect was daunting but exciting- be part of the initial group of people to form a Jesus centered church in downtown Cincinnati. Of course, the invitation was not that simple and we knew it was more complex. All of us knew that being part of such a downtown church would involve addressing many difficult areas head on – confronting notions of a Christ-less Gospel, a Gospel-less Christ, racism, classism, and above all, our own unfaithful hearts. Our initial “That’s great, I hope it goes well for you” was followed by serious consideration over the next months.
At the heart of my hesitation was the degree to which I knew Michael, and whether or not he was willing to do the things that I thought would help to bring about a Gospel-centered, multi-ethnic church. We knew each other through Teriea’s involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ and the Clarys were kind enough to allow me to stay at their house often when I came from Michigan to visit Teriea in Louisville. I knew the Clarys were great folks and they were always more than hospitable to me, but in my mind this didn’t necessarily mean that I thought Michael was willing to make racial reconciliation a priority in planting the church.
We had many frank conversations about problems that plague Cincinnati, particularly racial issues, and how we could confront them as a church. Over our many discussions I came to see Michael’s humility and desire to do what it takes to seriously address such problems. Many people give lip service to wanting to see the racial divide bridged through Christ, but few are willing to give up personal comforts, learn from others or search their hearts for biases. Michael was more than willing to do all of these. In fact, Michael’s humility and willingness to admit need in this area challenged me. His attitude showed me that he was more willing to be transparent but because I held myself to be some sort of an expert on the topic I was not willing to be as honest with myself as he was with me. After several months I had come to wholeheartedly believe that not only could Michael be the man to lead such a church, but that he would be the man to lead such a church.
Once we were sure that we were to go to Cincinnati, the next year or so involved actually getting there. Teriea was in nursing school and I was working at an insurance company full time. We made many visits to the Clary’s place in Cincinnati and Michael and I formed a very close friendship over time. We got to know a lot of folks in the church and we experienced the growing pains along with the joy of the church’s early growth.
We planned to be in Cincinnati by May of 2009, when Teriea graduated from nursing school, but God had different plans. I thought of every conceivable way to get to live in Cincinnati, but my efforts were in vain. Around November I grew desperate and was on the brink of quitting my first semester of seminary because I was stretched to my limit with school and working full-time. God is better than we imagine and, after months of applying for nursing jobs, Teriea interviewed and was hired to a job that she didn’t even apply for. What’s even better is that it is her dream job.
We finally arrived in Cincinnati at the end of December, just a few weeks before the church’s first public service.
All of that to say, we’re here Cincinnati. I’ve grown to like you, but I’m gonna grow to love you… a lot. I got my chili spoon ready, my “whodey” in reserve, and I’m quick to tell anyone what neighborhood I live in. It’s gonna be fun.