This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Arizona church builds, not just for itself

PHOENIX — When Copper Hills Church dedicated its new facility Jan. 10, it marked a significant step in meeting needs of both the congregation and the community.

Pastor Brad Klassen, holding microphone, leads in cutting the ribbon as the Copper Hills congregation celebrates their new building. — Copper Hills Church
Pastor Brad Klassen, holding microphone, leads in cutting the ribbon as the Copper Hills congregation celebrates their new building. — Copper Hills Church

The congregation, the first to be planted in the Mennonite Brethren Mission USA initiative in 1997, has completed a 500-seat auditorium that will be a performing arts center for the community. It includes classrooms that can double as practice studios or dressing rooms.

The congregation first worshiped in the partially completed building Dec. 13. They gathered at the school where they had been meeting, then walked together to the new building for one service.

On Jan. 10, they held a dedication between their two services. Church leaders reviewed the church’s history and God’s provision and led a time of prayer.

“We handed the building back over to our Savior,” said Pastor Brad Klassen.

The community was invited to a Jan. 23 grand opening, which included a barbecue, inflatable play structures and an obstacle course. Klassen said many who attended also came to Sunday services the next day.

When Copper Hills was planted, the church set out to learn what the community most wanted and needed. One need that quickly rose to the surface was a place for the performing and creative arts: theater, music, ceramics and so forth.

“Then that’s what we’ll build,” Klassen said.

Throughout planning, the project has been known as “The Well,” referring to the account in John 4 of Jesus meeting the woman at the well. The woman came to meet a practical need, but Jesus offered her the opportunity to experience living water.

Redeeming the arts

In addition, Klassen said Copper Hills hopes to “redeem the arts for the kingdom.” He notes much of the world’s great art and music came out of the church.

Copper Hills plans to hire an arts director to run the performing arts center as a ministry, with its own staff and leadership.

The new building is located in the middle of a community of about 10,000, next to a 17-acre park, a community center and a school connected by walking pathways. Through a partnership with the city, the church has even built a stage on park land that can be used for both community and church events.

The Pacific District Conference and MB Foundation provided financial support and loans.

As the congregation celebrates this milestone, Klassen said they are very aware of where they started. He talks about Mission USA visionaries who courageously dreamed of planting a new church in a city without a strong USMB presence, then prayed and supported as that dream became a reality. Some have prayed for Copper Hills for 20 years.

“Those are very special relationships,” he said. “This is not a short-term, plant something and move on. No, this is a relationship. It’s a family.”

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!