By CECILIA PADILLA-BRILL
ATWATER VILLAGE — At a time when churches across the United States are shuttering, one humble contender has emerged – Northland Village Church in Atwater Village.
Headed by pastor Nick Warnes, NVC spreads its message of reconciliation to the de-churched, or people who no longer attend mass, in nontraditional ways. NVC members have coordinated community events such as the Atwater Artwalk and Northeast Home Brew Competition and have also volunteered at GlenFeliz Elementary School. Its Atwater congregation has grown to about 100 members with, about half attending Sunday service in a former industrial building in the north end of Atwater Village. NVC also has five additional congregations in Los Angeles.
This past May, NVC was one of three Presbyterian church groups from across the nation that received The Sam and Helen R. Walton Award, a $35,000 prize given to new churches.. NVC plans to use the funds to continue to promote reconciliation in northeast Los Angeles. Pastor Nick shares his thoughts about NVC and its importance in the area’s religious landscape.
Why Atwater Village?
We actually focus on northeast Los Angeles. Atwater is right in the middle of northeast Los Angeles, so Atwater has been a fitting place to meet for worship. The whole of the work of our church has included a lot of effort in Atwater over the past five years, but the work is beginning to move into other parts of northeast Los Angeles.
Was your strategy successful?
It depends how one defines success. Is Atwater and the surrounding areas better because of our fingerprints? I think so. Do we have meaningful relationships across the neighborhood? Yes. Do all sorts of people want to connect with NVC? Not really.
We live in a post-Christian setting where people are typically hurt, skeptical or disinterested in the church. We get this and identify with it. Everyone in our church who has decided to take the leap back into church is working through these realities of a post-Christian context. Our size stays relatively small, which we actually embrace. However, if one were to define the success of the church around size, then we would be less successful.
What does it mean to serve as an agent of reconciliation?
Becoming agents of reconciliation means that we are working to master the art of coming alongside the other. As many know, the church has often done a better job of creating others and pushing them away than coming alongside our others. We hope to do the opposite.
What sets NVC apart from traditional Presbyterian churches?
Our contextual expression of faith. For instance, we meet in an old industrial building next to Golden Road Brewery. We are into connecting with our neighbors. We are into innovation.
What’s the overall vision for Northland Village Church?
Creating spaces for reconciling relationships is our mission. Our core values are justice, compassion, hospitality, community, commission and love. Read the details on our website and in my book, “Starting Missional Churches: Life with God in the Neighborhood.”
Cecilia Padilla-Brill is a communications writer and journalist. She writes news, health, education and feature stories. Cecilia is currently working on her first novel. She has lived in Echo Park since 1999
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