Hamilton comes to Lansing for three weeks starting May 14. Sycamore Creek Church invites the community to explore faith themes in the musical and in the founding father’s life.
Senior Content Editor, Michigan Conference
Tom Arthur, leader of Sycamore Creek Church, has this word of encouragement for the pastors whom he trains: “I encourage pastors to have a life. Go out and have some fun!”
Tom himself recently had some fun at All Of The Above, a hip hop academy in Lansing. AOTA was hosting a spoken word and rap contest. The winner would receive tickets to Hamilton, the Broadway sensation that tells the story of one of America’s Founding Fathers. Hamilton is coming to the Wharton Center in East Lansing, May 14-June 2.
“I decided to enter the workshop and contest which was stretching myself a bit,” Arthur says. He created a spoken word piece and was chosen as one of the ten finalists. “I didn’t win last Wednesday night, but I sure had a lot of fun.” Arthur considers it a win of sorts to network with local artists. “Some of those relationships are continuing,” Arthur reports. “And that’s related to the bigger aspect of our philosophy at Sycamore Creek Church (SCC). Get out of the castle! Don’t stay inside the bubble of the church.”
Indeed. When Arthur says, “Go out and have some fun!” he means it. But fun is not always just for amusement’s sake. There’s faith in the fun and God in the fun when a pastor or a church member becomes engaged with the community. “Hamilton coming to town presents a cultural connection,” Arthur explains, and Sycamore Creek has organized events that reach out.
The congregation has invited the public to join them in enhancing their Hamilton experience. Kevin Cloud, Kansas City pastor, church planter, and author of the book, God and Hamilton, preaches at Sycamore Creek on May 19, 9:30 and 11:00 am. From 1:00 to 3:30 pm that afternoon there’s a “Your Best Creative Life Workshop” at River Terrace Church. “Faith and Arts in the Mix” involves performance and panel discussion offered at Sycamore Creek’s main campus that evening 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Moderated by Sarah Arthur, herself an author of note, the panel features six artists, including Kevin Cloud. The God and Hamilton message series then continues May 26 and June 2 on all three Sycamore Creek campuses. All events are free. Click here for full details of all events.
The Hamilton events are just one example of how “Sycamore Creek engages the culture,” according to Tom Arthur. “We look around and ask, ‘What’s happening? Where is people’s attention right now? What sort of questions are they asking?’” He underscores the importance of being familiar with the existential needs – physical, spiritual, relational – of neighbors. The basic approach is, “Start where people are.”
The answer to why a church would appropriate a Broadway play as an evangelism effort can be found in Sycamore Creek’s three Core Values … Curious. Creative. Compassionate.
“The Curious piece,” Arthur notes, “means that your questions and struggles are welcome at Sycamore Creek. You don’t have to leave your questions at the door.” Curiosity is practiced at Sycamore Creek Church with what the Bible says, what others say, and prayer.
The Creative core value helps the church avoid getting stuck in a rut. “We try to play jazz on tradition,” Arthur says. An example he gives is Sycamore Creek’s celebration of Maundy Thursday. “When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet he was looking for something both symbolic and practical.” Arthur continues, “Today people are not walking around with dirty feet, so instead of a traditional foot-washing service, we took over two laundromats and threw a party.” Bring along some food, detergent, a $1,000 in quarters then, “Once you put the quarters in the machine, you stand around for two hours and make new friends.”
“Church in a Church” and “Church in a Pub” is another expression of the creativity at the core of SCC’s ministry and mission. “For some, there’s a war going, church vs. culture, over reserving Sunday morning for church. The culture won,” Arthur states. SCC has accepted that and adapts rather than complains. “Not everybody wants to come on a Sunday morning to a church building,” Arthur says. “So, we go where they are.” Sunday morning activities for SCC happen on two campuses, one in Lansing and the other in Potterville. Church in a Pub meets at Buddies Grill in Holt every Monday night. The pastor goes to Buddies 90 minutes early to eat, have a drink, and talk with others seated at the bar. “Every Monday night is an adventure,” Arthur reflects. “Who am I going to meet? What is their story of his or her life? Where is God active in that story and what role can I play as a means of grace in that life for however long we’re seated there?” He adds, “Sometimes it goes deep, and other times it stays shallow, but I listen to their needs.” Arthur states that the “big vision of SCC is to have seven satellites, seven venues, seven days a week.”
“We are going to show compassion no matter who you are. Whether we meet you in the church or on the street … Republican or Democrat … straight or gay … whether you like the church or don’t like the church,” is how Arthur describes the SCC’s value of compassion. “This shows itself in both acts of charity and acts of justice,” Arthur adds.
SCC is very active in racial reconciliation in the city of Lansing. Last January during the observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Sycamore Creek Church “closed down and went down the street and joined Epicenter of Worship. We didn’t do anything but show up and sit under the leadership of black pastors and leaders.” Arthur calls that an “eye-opener for many” in his congregation, though but a “first step in a million-mile journey resolving issues of racism.” Arthur values the ongoing relationship he has with Sean Holland, pastor of Epicenter. He also points out that racial and ethnic diversity is a strong theme “that Hamilton, as an art form, brings up.”
Pastor Tom Arthur shared this story seated in a coffee shop, using his cell phone. There is no door with a sign, “Pastor’s Office,” on either SCC campus. “In philosophy and practice,” he says, “I stay connected to people from outside the church.” He concludes, “It’s really pretty simple. Get to know people and love them. I am having a blast.”
~ Tom Arthur is a leader and trainer in the Reach Network of The Michigan Conference. Wanting to go deeper into the strategies he shared in this feature? Go to ReachSummit.org.