Lorraine Cleaves Anderson, a 20-year resident of Mission Hill, is the pastor of the International Community Church in Allston, an institution that shares its space with seven other churches. Anderson is so smitten with church-sharing she has written a book on the subject called “Under One Steeple.”
“It’s tremendous,” Anderson said about the church-sharing arrangement. “It’s a picture of heaven. We thrive on it. But it doesn’t happen on its own.”
The pastor said the book, which came out in March, is 20 chapters with two to three stories each about her experience with church sharing.
“It’s an easy story to read,” said Anderson. “People like to read stories. I did not set out to write a book. I set out to preserve true stories that have occurred.”
Anderson grew up on the coast of Maine before coming to Massachusetts to attend Gordon College on the North Shore. While in college, she used to go to the missions in the South End when it was full of bars and drugs. She and other college students would try to make a difference in the name of Jesus, singing and preaching, according to Anderson.
Anderson was ordained in 1991. At that time, she was involved with the New Life Church on Fordham Road in Allston. The church shared space with immigrant churches in an atmosphere Anderson called “collegial.”
Anderson became the pastor of the International Community Church in 1998 as the New Life Church was forced out of its building when the owner decided to sell. Having been bitten by the church-sharing bug, Anderson brought with her a Haitian church from the Fordham Road location. International now shares space with six others, including a church for deaf people and a Burmese-American church.
Anderson said the arrangement allows the groups to share languages, food and friendship and to have a global perspective.
“Our churches, when we come together like this, reflect the world,” said Anderson
The pastor said that when a new church is incorporated at the International, there is usually a year to a year-and-a-half learning process. But once that is completed, she said there is usually no conflict. She said one area that has been a little troubling is the sharing of electronics, such as sound systems.
“What I am realizing is that churches are less willing to share the equipment than I would have thought,” said Anderson. “That’s a new dilemma, but we are not letting it create a conflict.”
Anderson said that other church-sharing arrangements she has known to fail have resulted from owners of the building becoming possessive of their things. She said that that, along with noise, is usually what kills the arrangement.
The pastor said she hopes that the people who read the book go out and take the risk of church-sharing.