Madison is not perceived as a city with a thriving Christian culture. But that may be changing. The Grand Opening Open House at The Upper House, 235 Campus Mall, drew a standing room only crowd this evening to the University of Wisconsin campus.
The Upper House is “a dynamic space where thoughtful conversation and innovative programming takes place,” said Upper House executive director John Terrill, as he introduced Stephen and Laurel Brown, the business partners who began considering such a facility more than a dozen years ago.
“The Upper House is an expression of our desire to give back to the UW community,” said Stephen Brown, who developed the building in which Upper House is located. The building, in the heart of campus, features stores on ground level, with apartments and some UW offices on upper floors. Upper House is located in the space formerly occupied by a food court, on the second floor.
Citing a famous UW inscription, Brown said the “sifting and winnowing” process begins with the investigation of important questions. The Upper House is dedicated as a space to dialogue about important questions, particularly those dealing with religious faith, such as the recent Q Commons. Religious faith is a topic that is sometimes hard to find on the UW campus, beyond campus-based ministries. The Upper House is hoping to draw a much broader range of participants.
“A vibrant faith in God has made all the difference in my life,” Brown said. “One thing I’ve learned in 40+ years in business, it makes a difference how we live our lives and conduct our business.”
The Grand Opening included a 12-minute video featuring a number of business and religious leaders discussing the rare opportunity such a unique facility offers, an opportunity to influence future leaders who will graduate and leave Madison and head off to every corner of the globe.
“It’s located right in the heart of the art district of Madison, across from the Chazen Museum of Art,” remarked Andrew Sewell, music director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. “It’s a gift of love from Laurel and Steve,” said Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison.
Nine years ago, when madisonchristians.com came online, one of our first stories was on a unique space on the east side called the Madison House of Prayer for All Nations. The House of Prayer was a vibrant center of ministry underwritten by a local business man. It closed several years later.
Now another unique faith-oriented space is open in Madison in the very heart of the city, once again underwritten by a local businessman and businesswoman. It’s potential for impact was recognized by everyone in the room, time will tell if its potential is realized.
Surprisingly, most of the people in the room this evening seemed to be members of the Madison business community. I recognized staff from several campus ministries and Blackhawk Church, which is moving its downtown services to Upper House. I was disappointed that I didn’t see pastors from any other Madison churches.