United Methodist pastor Jeffry Bross leads a congregation known as Flowing Grace and indeed, this community has moved out into the nearby area and now offers support in an unusual location. Bross decided to open an office at a local storage facility where he counsels people in many stages of moving on.
(Locator: Batavia, Illinois)
The Rev. Jeffry Bross, Flowing Grace, Batavia United Methodist Church: "The weirdest thing for me is just saying this is my office. I mean, my father was a pastor, and I remember his offices - they were warm, there were couches, there were all these things and... this is where I am."
The Reverend Jeffry Bross has a reputation for thinking outside the box.
(Greets child at church) "Congratulations. Are you excited?"
In 2007, he started Flowing Grace, a portable 'church in a box' affiliated with Batavia United Methodist near Chicago. In 2013, Bross moved his office out of the church to a place with plenty of boxes, a storage facility.
The Rev. Jeffry Bross: "These units are filled with people in transition, and who are hurting. Going through divorce, lost a home. This unit here is the woman that I met who is running away from an abusive relationship with a couple of kids, and she's stuck in a one bedroom apartment, but didn't want her things to go away, and her children's things, and the memories, and the books, and whatnot...a lot of stuffed animals...if they have kids, teddy bears."
Flowing Grace church member Joanne Mendicino told Bross about her own experience here and the idea was born.
Joanne Mendicino, Flowing Grace Church Member: "Due to the death of my father my mom came to live with us, and we had to move their stuff someplace. And so I met Mark and we had a storage facility here."
(Mark on phone) "Self-storage..."
Mark, Storage Facility Manager: "There's a lot of heartache, and a lot of issues going on here. When I can hand them their card and say, 'You know, call Pastor Jeffry Bross and he could talk to you if you would like, and maybe can help you.' I just don't even know how to almost put it into words how important a pastor is. He's someone - he's a brother, he's a father, he's someone to listen to, he can be just about anything. I mean it's amazing what they do."
Bross admits the transient nature of the storage business makes a long-term relationship difficult, but people will remember a helping hand in their time of crisis.
The Rev. Jeffry Bross: "As you're talking to folks, pretty soon their number might be disconnected, or they're gone, and as quickly as they come in, they can go out. And so it may never grow our church because of that. But if it gave them hope to hold through, and then they can say later on, 'Hey, the church was there for me,' that might help."
Joanne Mendicino: "The whole idea with Flowing Grace was to go out and talk with the community, and be in the community. And this really afforded Pastor Bross the opportunity to do those things."
(Bross driving around Batavia) "We're trying to find a whole bunch of different places to meet with folks.Now this has really inspired us to think 'outside the box', as it were - as I'm driving in my box-but right here's a laundromat that we're gonna start to have various Bible studies there. There are hurting people, and people in need, and people questioning, and people doubting everywhere."
The Rev. Jeffry Bross: "This used to be my office, when I was pastor just at Batavia United Methodist Church. The challenges of reaching out to new folks - it's much more difficult when you have an older building. You know the old saying, 'Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors, see all the people.' Our belief is 'Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors and now go out and serve and reach out to the people.' And so that's what Flowing Grace is meant to do, is to reach out, to do something about our faith, and to share the love of Christ."
As of summer 2014, Flowing Grace is now an official church separate from Batavia but still a United Methodist congregation. The Rev. Jeffry Bross says he still has his office in the storage unit building but activity has slowed down since the storage units are now full. Bross is looking for new, out of the box places to meet people who are in need of a church. For more information, contact the Flowing Grace Community, 2255 Sullivan Road, Aurora, IL 60506
Posted: April 10, 2013