Our congregation meets in an old house, so it makes sense that housing is a part of our mission and work.
Our ministry center (at 504 NE 16th St.) is an old house (with a separate garage and overhead apartment) in the historic Lincoln Terrace Neighborhood, likely built in the 1920’s. We don’t know much about its first 40 years of history, but we do know that in 1965 the building was purchased by the Western District Conference of the then General Conference Mennonite Church.
For the 35 years or so, the building served as the Oklahoma MVS (Mennonite Voluntary Service) house, with the upstairs of the building serving as a dormitory for a dozen or more voluntary service workers. Many of the MVS workers were young men doing alternative service in lieu of being drafted but others (both male and female) came voluntarily for the sake of serving others.
After the VS House closed, the building became the new home of Joy Mennonite Church. During the next 15 years or so, the congregation hosted tenants (often students from nearby colleges) to help subsidize the utilities but for the most part saw housing as only an ancillary part of the congregation’s existence.
This changed about 10 years ago, as we started having young adults from our congregation become the tenants of the church. This infusion of life changed the nature of our congregation, moving it away from being merely a “tiny Mennonite church that meets in an old house on Sundays” to being more of a 7-day a week community.
A good number of folks have since lived at our house. Some for a short while, other for long-term stays. This has resulted in us having regular activities at the church, especially meals and discussion groups, and sometimes even house concerts and movie nights.
We of course are limited by space. We can’t help but dream of someday having other houses so that other folks can enjoy living in intentional community. But for now, we are very happy to be not only a church that meets in a house, but a church that hosts an intentional community.