Following Cell Tower Controversy, Christ Church Focuses on Community
T-Mobile project canceled
When Christ Church Pastor Bryan Attinson and his wife Antoinette started their congregation they did so with the idea to serve not only the members of their church but also the community as a whole.
Five years ago Attinson said the church signed a lease agreement with T-Mobile to build a cell phone tower on the property. That started a process that included contentious hearings at the zoning board, protests by local residents and eventually approval by the board.
Following the approval the church and the wireless provider could not agree on the design of the pole itself and the project as a whole was cancelled. With a sense of relief Pastor Attinson said if he had known the reaction the tower would have had with the church's neighbors, he never would have gone forward with it in the first place.
Attinson said he did not expect the negative reaction from the community as the plans became public but at the time they had already signed a lease with T-Mobile. "One of the things that is very important to us is to serve the community," he said. "It's why we're here. When I saw the response I felt terrible."
Since its inception the proposed plan changed several times. The pastor said the final version he had approved of was one that was closer to the church than the original and designed to look like a tree. He said the plan would have been just to build the final tower to the left of the steeple after a considerable amount of time and money invested by the wireless carrier.
Following the approval he said T-Mobile wanted to make it a monopole rather than one that looked like a tree and despite their best efforts Attinson said after discussions with the church's board of directors there was "not enough money that they could give us to change our minds." He added, "We knew it would take away from the aesthetics of the church and we didn't want to be an antenna with a church."
In tough economic times the pastor said the money could have helped the church achieve some its long term goals but they were not swayed by the financial benefits. "I never looked at the church as a business," he said. "I always looked at it that it should be run as a family where we know each other, we care about the people who are here and we care about the community."
The money from the 30 year lease would have helped the church but Attinson said they are more concerned with helping their members and the community as a whole. "Even though they offered us a lot of money our goals are that the church is important and the community is important," he said. "We know that sooner or later we're going to pass the church down to the next generation and our decisions are going to impact people for a long time."
Looking forward Attinson said he believes the church can continue to have a good relationship with its neighbors. "Even in the protests I appreciate the fact that the community was respectful," he said. "We had some issues but for the most part I think that they were respectful. I think that we can walk away from this feeling good that the process played out, it happened the way that it did and now we know that if we're going to make any significant changes to the property, even before we go to the town, to include our neighbors to let them know what's going on so they can feel like they're a part of the process instead of being at odds."
17 Years of Service
A lot has changed for the church since Attinson and his wife Antoinette founded the congregation in their home. They built their current structure in 2006 and have close to 500 members. "The church is actually in a very good growth period now," he said. "We're looking to go to multiple services, continue to provide programs for the church and the community."
He said he hopes to see that growth continue in the future. "Hopefully we can continue to build for the community of believers and the community at large," he said.
The church is non-denominational with Attinson calling them a "Christ centered bible believing," congregation. Attinson said he is not against denominations but prefers the structure his church operates under. "I always felt like in a family nobody knows your family better than you," he said. "We felt that the church would be better served by having our leadership centralized here."
There are other Christ Churches in New Jersey with the first two in Rockaway and Westfield under Pastor David Ireland. Attinson said he learned from Ireland and that they work together but the Howell church runs as an autonomous entity. "We make our own decisions but we're linked," he said. "It's like the parents in your life. They're always your parents but they don't come in and tell you how to run your house."
Having been raised in a Jewish family Attinson said he could not have imagined his life taking this path but said he cannot see it any other way. "Dr. Ireland told me if you do the right thing every day, one day you're going to look up and you're going to be able to look behind you and see what you've accomplished."
Seeing the accomplishments of his family and his church, Attinson said is a point of pride. "I look up and I say, 'wow,' You wake up and you want to do the right thing every day with vision and values. You say okay we made a mark." He added, "You have a short period of time in your life. Some are longer, some are shorter. You think If I could just use that period of time to make some sort of a difference somewhere, somehow maybe I'll be successful. I'll never be the wealthiest or the most successful but maybe I'll be able to make a difference in that period of time."
To learn more about the church check out their website.