by Rev. Ben Pascal
This article was originally published in PCJH’s Fall 2023 Pinnacle, “Building For Our Future”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words to the Israelites in exile, longing for home. This promise from Jeremiah 29:11 is beautiful and is filled with hope for the future. I still believe that the best days are not behind us, but ahead of us. It will always be that way as we move closer to God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
In 2009, Addie and I were living in Seattle and longing for God’s plan for us to come to fruition. We were living in an 800 square-footsq/ft house we could barely afford and we were expecting our daughter Nina to arrive soon. I was unemployed as many were in the Great Recession. We wondered if we would ever be able to have a home where we could raise a family.
A year later, in 2010, I was called as associate pastor at PCJH. I still remember when Pastor Paul and the search committee told us there was a house in Rafter J that would be part of my housing compensation package. We were blown away by the thoughtful planning and generous provision of the congregation as we were in no position to buy a home, even then, when it was affordable by today’s standards. It was an answer to our prayer, and it gave us hope for our future as we moved into this new home that we still live in 13 years later.
The Rafter J Manse has been a sanctuary for our family. This is the only home our kids know and they have grown up in a wonderful neighborhood. This home is one reason we have been able to stay so long here in Jackson at PCJH. It has been a blessing to us and others. It truly feels like our home, not “employee housing.”
There are certainly challenges around not owning our home. For instance, we are not building equity and our home is attached to my employment, so we are increasingly aware that we may not be able to stay in the Jackson community when I am no longer the pastor at PCJH. But overall, it has been a positive experience for both PCJH and the Pascals. No solution is perfect but our situation has been a blessing. I am forever grateful for the home PCJH has provided us.
The Rafter J Manse was donated to the church in 2003 by a PCJH family. I often think about the amazing foresight and generosity of that family. Their gift to PCJH was a game changer.
The early founders of PCJH also had the foresight and thoughtfulness to purchase land for the future needs of the church. We now have the opportunity to create homes for PCJH staff on church- owned land. I believe a future generation of PCJH members will appreciate the courage, generosity, and wisdom of our current members for addressing the ever-presentforever housing challenge of Jackson Hole for the benefit of the vision and mission of PCJH.
I truly believe we will not be the thriving church we have always been without providing affordable housing solutions for our staff. This project is about securing our future.
As you read this Pinnacle edition you will learn more about our employee housing project from our exceptional and experienced committee members and consultants. You will also hear firsthand from staff members -, past and present – , to learn more about the housing challenges they have experienced and their gratitude for how PCJH has stepped in to help.
When I hear congregation members concerned about the housing project causing the church to become a landlord, the truth is we already are! It is a reality of being an employer in Jackson Hole today. The majority of our full-time staff live in some sort of PCJH orchestrated housing.
Isaiah 32:18 says, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” I am thankful I serve a congregation that wants to care for and honor its staff with beautiful dwelling places.
We have contracted with Horizons Stewardship to help guide us in a capital campaign. Many of you participated in a congregational survey regarding the proposed employee housing project. Thank you! 136 surveys were completed, which was a great turnout. The survey results were very positive towards the proposed project with an overall 92% in favor of proceeding with the plan (noting that 33% of those in favor still wanting more details to be flushed out). According to Horizons these results are substantially more positive than surveys they receive from other churches they consult with. We will give a more detailed report of the survey at some point in the near future.
I believe it is important for PCJH to solve the housing challenge for our staff in order to secure the church’s future as a vibrant church known for its outreach to our community and to children, youth, and families. I believe there may also be a bigger vision that comes out of all this as we obtain valuable entitlements on our land that may not only further meet the needs of the church in the future, but also bless other like-minded organizations and partners in our community.
Please join us in praying for the church as we forge ahead into the promise of a hope and a future the Lord has for PCJH. May all we do ultimately bring glory to our Heavenly Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit and Giver of Life.
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” -1 Corinthians 3:10-11