This month, Pastor Ken Turnbull of Allegheny Center Alliance Church (ACAC) asks Northsiders: What are we going to build together in this new season?

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Our front yard has a red playhouse in it that I built for my two children more than 20 years ago. When COVID-19 cleared our schedules, my son-in-law and I began rebuilding and restoring it – with creative input from my granddaughter Lucy. It is a project we may not have started without the forced stop from the pandemic.

In Nehemiah 2, the Israelites who survived exile return to a broken, destroyed Jerusalem and begin to rebuild, brick by brick. Nehemiah 2:18 “They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.”

What are we on the Northside going to build together in this new season?

In order to know what to do, the right questions have to be asked. Our Assistant Lead Pastor Alan Hannah posed three questions to our staff a few weeks ago. The first question is, “What did we lose because of COVID-19?” But Pastor Hannah told us that this is not the right question. The next question is, “How can you duplicate what you lost in the new season?” But this is a backward looking question as well. He told us that the best question we can ask is: “What does this pandemic make possible that you would have never considered?”

In my reflection on these questions, I realized I miss continuing to work on the Community Hub project we are planning for our Northside campus and miss being able to meet with my neighbors in the community. 

What is now possible? I found, for myself, the answer lay in the words “Shelter at Home.” I was able to experience God’s call of, “be still and to know that I am God.” I was able to spend more time in quiet reflection, working from home, working a flexible schedule and releasing my fear, control, and anxiety to Him. On a family level, I discovered that I was able to spend more time with my wife, children, and grandchildren. I connected with my parents, particularly as they are completing a written account of their life story. They are my tribe, my “quaranteam.”

Pastor Ken Turnbull, pictured here with his family. Courtesy of Pastor Ken Turnbull

Even in a pandemic, God is always good.

So, I ask myself and God: “What are we going to build together on the Northside?”

Since regular in-person Sunday services were paused at ACAC, Community Hub pre-construction was paused and Compassion Hub – giving out 1,000 meals every day for area children – was birthed. Now, as we enter the school year again, the opportunity arrives to work together as a community to provide our support to our children and their parents as they navigate homeschooling. We don’t know what the fall will bring, but we want to work together to care for one another. The answer doesn’t lie in one place – it lies in the cumulation of people coming together to rebuild.

I have a vision of a day when I can look out my kitchen window and watch my grandchildren playing together in a restored playhouse: strong, safe, and built together with my son and son-in-law. I pray God will reveal what we can build together – as the church, as a community, as a city – that was not possible before this pandemic hit. I envision a city built by working together, as a family, side by side to restore the walls as in Nehemiah’s day. 

A pandemic can not stop our Almighty God, who gives us big dreams to work as neighbors with our Northside family.

Pastor Ken Turnbull is the Pastor and Director of Advancement and Operations at Allegheny Center Alliance Church.

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