Names are important in the Bible. They give insight into people’s character and purpose. Abraham means “father of many.” Israel means “one who struggles with God.” Jesus means “he saves.” Names matter. So what about our name? What does “First 7th” mean, anyway?
The mission of First 7th is to be a new place for new people. In Fort Worth, West 7th St. is full of new people. Single adults and young families like mine are making their homes in emerging neighborhoods in this city, and this is a church for them.
For the past year I spent all of my time embedded in this community. I ate, worked, and rested in the neighborhood. I went to West 7th and neighborhoods like it for fun and for worship, learning the values of these communities. Amidst the people who make up this and other growing places in our city, I learned a valuable lesson:
The goal is not to be new. The goal is to be renewed.
If you want to live in a new, built-from-scratch neighborhood, you don’t move to downtown Fort Worth. You move to a freshly-planted subdivision growing out of an old pasture. I grew up in a place like that. Things are shiny and bright, but there is no history there, no connection to something bigger, something deeper.
West 7th, Oakhurst, Near Southside, Magnolia St, Faimount, Ryan Place, Arlington Heights. These neighborhoods aren’t new, they’re being remade. The best they have to offer is being shaped by a new generation. This reinvention creates new gravity, drawing in people from far and wide with its attractive force. People love quality made contemporary, tradition made vital. The goal is not to be new, the goal is to be renewed. That is what we are. That is the vision that guides us.
The name First 7th ties this vision together. “First” represents not only our parent community but all of United Methodism and historic Christianity, a bottomless well of incredibly powerful spiritual practices and resources. “7th” represents what is happening on W. 7th St. and all around us; a new generation is remaking the historic into something fresh and modern. Old department stores become beautiful condos. Abandoned warehouses become cutting-edge film studios. Liturgy and sacrament become soul-moving features of vibrant worship.
When Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, he says that one must be born anew to enter God’s kingdom. But this renewal is made possible not through our own strength but by the moving, calling Spirit of God. That’s what compels us, enables us, pushes us to this calling. The Spirit of God is moving in our midst. Join us as we follow it into remaking ourselves, our church, and the world around us!