By Associate Conference Minister Daniel Ross-Jones
As many of you know by now, your Conference staff is once again on the move. We learned a few months ago that the lease for the Conference House, our beloved ministry home for the past two years, was not being renewed. Moving is never a simple task. Finding a space that works for our evolving ministry needs was only one part of moving, and it will come as a surprise to no one who has moved in the past few years that aligning price, space, value, and amenities within our Bay Area geography was a daunting proposition.
For those of you keeping track at home, this is our third move in five years. We outgrew our space in Hayward upon the addition of Rev. Davena Jones and myself as Associate Conference Ministers in 2015-2016, and then chose not to renew our lease on Roland Way in Oakland after finding the space to be inadequate to our needs.
Thankfully, our search is complete! Last week your Conference staff got to tour our new office home in Concord. This is a very different arrangement for our Conference than what we have had in the past, and I’m thrilled to tell you a little bit about it.
Instead of a standalone office space, we are moving into a professionally managed shared office suite within a corporate coworking space. This means we are able to significantly lower our overhead costs and demonstrate better stewardship of Conference funds by eliminating many of the expenses of running our own office, including utilities, cleaning services, waste disposal, telephone and Internet service.
We have access to meeting and hospitality space, as well. Additionally, our lease includes membership in a global network that enables our staff to reserve meeting space across dozens of locations throughout California, and also their own access to daily work space within those same locations. This can be used for meetings and workshops, further enabling us to resource leaders and congregations in our mutual ministry.
This kind of space comes with some dramatic changes to the way we have been doing our ministry. For starters, we’re substantially downsizing and will have very limited storage space! We won’t be bringing the vast majority of our furniture with us, and soon will be announcing equipment and furnishings available to their new homes before we will need to dispose of it. (Already we’re working to responsibly re-home our items, and I’m able to report some of our items have already found those new forever homes.)
We also will be kicking our efforts to digitize files into high gear. Over the past few years, we’ve digitized many of our church and ministerial files to permanently and safely retain them in electronic formats. We will have some space to store necessary paper files (such as legal and financial records which must be retained in hard copy), but we will need to be very judicious about our use of this kind of storage space in a way we have not needed to consider previously.
Finally, we as staff will need to live into space that is shared with other businesses and professionals. Our fantastic office staff, Miranda and Joy, will share one office with windows facing a beautiful view of Mount Diablo. Davena and I will continue to share an office, and our Conference Minister the Rev. Dr. Diane Weible will continue to have a private office. None of our offices are next door to each other, and we presume that our new neighbors won’t like us calling to each other down the hallway as we have done in our current and past spaces.
Even something like thinking of how to hold an open house and show you our new space takes delicate planning and consideration! I’m confident we’ll find some way to introduce you to our space, but please be patient with us as we navigate these new waters.
Consistent with our Accessible 2 All commitment as a Conference, our space is fully ADA accessible. Additionally, we are on multiple transit lines that serve both the Concord and Pleasant Hill BART stations, allowing our staff and guests to limit their use of single-occupancy vehicles and diminishing our carbon footprint. And we also have access to a corporate fitness center in the building for our own wellness – treadmill meetings, anyone?
After we move on January 1, when you visit us in Concord, you’ll be greeted as you step off the elevator on the 6th Floor by two friendly faces: the receptionists for our shared office space. Though you won’t be seeing Miranda and Joy immediately as you enter, as you have done at the Conference House, I hope you’ll still appreciate their hospitality as they give us a call to alert us of your arrival.
Already, we’ve found a new staff favorite restaurant which is a short walk down the street from our new office. You can believe I’m on my own search for the best indie coffee shop nearby. (Suggestions from Tri-Valley folks are welcome in the comments below!)
I’m so appreciative of the ways you have come together as Conference to support this move. We’ve signed a two-year lease, after which we are able to renegotiate for additional terms to extend the lease. We’re hoping this will be our staff home for more years to come! Someone asked me earlier this week if the nomadic stories of faithful people in the Bible were inspiring me yet…
Continue to hold us in your prayers. Continue to respond to our calls for help as we close down this chapter at the Conference House and move to Concord. And continue to inspire us in the ways you are as the Northern California Nevada Conference – because that is what makes this all worthwhile.