In January of 2003 my wife and I began Renaissance Church with about a dozen friends. We met in the old Columbus Theatre on Broadway in the West Side of Providence, RI. Being in New England and being inexperienced as a church planter, we did not grow very fast. In fact, the first three years we remained at about 30 people and met in hotels, storefronts, dance studios and even outside in parks on occasion. Being on the West Side we focused mostly on serving local artists. We created a small arts venue for them to perform and display their art and built many friendships.
By an act of divine providence we ended up on the Eastside and the church tripled within months as we were invaded by college students from Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design. About 2009 the church experienced an awakening after a season of 40 days of prayer and fasting. After that powerful visitation from God we became much more serious about prayer and walking in the fear of the Lord. The Gospel also took a much greater center place in our lives and the presence of Jesus was notably stronger as we surrendered more fully. We were growing up. In this time of dramatic reviving God gave birth to a fresh vision of relocating the church into an area of urban decay in Providence's South End.
We then took a crazy step of faith, at a time when we were struggling financially, and found a large warehouse-type space in the heart of the city. In less than a year, our church doubled in size and became much more diverse in every way. The church formed wonderful relationships with Burmese refugees, the homeless, urban teens and kids and all kinds of beautiful colorful people living in the surrounding neighborhoods.
After a solid 5 year run in that location I started feeling a stir that perhaps God was moving us on. Though the location had many great features one weakness was that it was hidden away and not as visible and accessible as we desired. Also, during these 5 years we grew from about 7 children to 70 children and we desperately needed more space for our kids programming. So I started once again on my prayer drives in search of a new location.
After much prayer I kept feeling drawn to the densely populated area around Classical High School where Southside, Westside and downtown converge. We found an amazing three story 18,000 square foot building smack in the heart of everything at 184 Broad Street with a top floor sanctuary that overlooks the downtown skyline. We are now surrounded by three high schools, Johnson and Wales University, hundreds of homeless and the city's largest shelter, thousands of under-resourced families, a thriving local artist community, young professionals in downtown lofts and seniors in high rises. The need here is tremendous as we are surrounded by people of all races, economic classes and cultures. God has positioned us to become a “house of prayer for all nations”.
This is the basic outline of our history but there are hundreds of amazing stories that could be told filling in the details. From the start there has been a sense that Ren Church was very much God's idea and we have just been chosen to come along for the ride. God is building His kingdom in this city and is making the name of Jesus famous. And this is just the beginning.
- Pastor Scott Axtmann
[also be sure to listen to the Feb 2019 sermon Ren 101: History, in which Pastor Scott reminisces about the ways God has guided the church through tough times to bring us to where we are today]