When you enter Hope City Church in Waterloo, expect a warm welcome.
I was a stranger and newcomer to the church when I attended worship a few weeks ago. As I entered the building with others we were immediately greeted — warm smiles, hearty handshakes and genuine assurances of gratitude for our presence.
Quovadis “Pastor Q” Marshall was at the door too — giving everyone hugs. Later, when Pastor Q began his sermon, he explained why he’s a “hugger”: “It’s something I stole from my mama — ‘when you walk through her doors, you’re family, not a guest.’”
My friend Tracy had invited me to visit her church. I know that’s not an easy thing to do, and I take those invitations seriously. She promised a vibrant and dynamic faith community, powerful preaching and engaged people. In telling me about her church, she was enthusiastic; what sort of place draws out such passion in its members?
The answer soon became apparent: Hope City is a congregation that reflects what we experience in our everyday lives — diversity and truth.
Hope City is a 2-year-old church. Led by Pastor Q, the congregation has grown into a unique congregation that exemplifies diversity of age, race, economic background and more.
“There are more than 300,000 churches in America,” Pastor Q explains. “The majority of those churches are monoracial — 92.5 percent.”
Hope City is among the few churches with racial, generational, geographical and economical diversity.
The congregation’s stated goals are to “help people know God, find community, discover their purpose and make a difference in their lives, homes and the Cedar Valley.”
The goals express a dream Pastor Q and his wife, Angela, nurtured for several years before founding the church.
“I grew up down the street from here,” Pastor Q explains. “There is a great divide in our community, and Hope City Church exists to heal that divide. That’s why we have a saying here that Hope City Church is ‘in the city, of the city, for the city.’”
The congregation’s growth remains strong and steady. After its first worship service in September 2015, the congregation gathered everywhere from his basement to rented space before moving to 118 High St. in Waterloo. It began hosting services there Jan. 1.
Hope City has shared the building with First Lutheran Church. Pastor Q sees it as a prime location for realizing Hope City’s mission and goals.
Membership in First Lutheran has been in decline for several years and is now at less than 25. After celebrating its 150th anniversary in June, First Lutheran’s remaining members decided to sell the building to Hope City. First Lutheran will dissolve Aug. 31.
Pastor Q feels a responsibility to First Lutheran’s legacy and its members. He has been touched by how those members extended trust and embraced Hope City. Some have joined the newer church.
“It’s as if the (First Lutheran members) are passing the baton,” Pastor Q explains. “The next 150 years are for us to finish what was started here — to be a beacon of light in this community.”