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In life, you sometimes end up on a path that you never would have imagined. While I had always been generally spiritual, I was well removed from modern day religion and traditions for most of my life. I did not find folks that I knew who professed to be Christian to be genuine. The smiles and nice words seemed to barely mask the contempt they had for certain other people. Still, once in a while, there would be someone who hit it right. That was the case with Ben Collins, and the Collective community.
My mother passed on a few years ago, and for the first time in decades, I had no family nearby. The first major holiday following her passing was Easter. As that holiday approached, I thought to myself “I have no idea what I am going to do that day.” I was kinda bummed, and I guess it was because I really did (and do still) desire spirituality more than I generally let on.
Someone, a few days before that Easter, told me that Café da Vinci was having some little thing going on, and I thought I might just show up. It turned out to be the Collective Easter Service. I was a bit nervous and when I got there I sort of hung out at the door between the courtyard and the bar; staying near an escape hatch, I suppose. But, overall, the experience was rather pleasant and the sermon was filled with a message of love and not judgment. I did not hang around after, did not want to get sucked in. My goodness, I had grown so frightened of the church over the years.
I don’t believe I saw anyone from Collective till the following Easter, when I returned to the event at Café da Vinci. Ben recognized me almost immediately and came to welcome me again. So, this time, I stood about ten or fifteen feet from the escape hatch door, and I stayed at the end of the service. I was moved by the service once more, and gradually over the next year or so, I would peek in the door at Collective and experience the service live. I did not then go often, every few weeks, but always made Christmas and Easter.
Over the years, for various reasons, I have built a fortress wall around me and my feelings. It is not easily penetrated, and I rarely let the gate down voluntarily. Sometimes I am sure it comes across as rude, but I really never mean it that way, just a really private person. What I have learned from the wonderful Collective community is that everyone there is O.K. with me being me; just the way I am. They do not hound me for not showing up, but welcome me warmly when I do. The online service is the best, because it allows me to attend and be near my escape hatch.
What I have learned from the wonderful Collective community is that everyone there is O.K. with me being me; just the way I am.
Believe it or not, I have grown more comfortable with my newfound faith, even asking Ben to baptize me this summer; an experience I will hold close for the rest of my time in this world. A gang of folks from Collective even showed up after the hurricane this year to help me pick up the debris at my house! So, though I don’t show it well, I love the Collective community.
This is why I pledge. Collective allows me to explore my faith at my pace without judgment and because of the love and support they show, I am gradually letting folks a little closer to my heart. And I have grown. In the last year, I have found the courage to perform two wedding ceremonies, and welcomed other friends to Collective events like the Sunday Soul Brunch. There is no way I would have done those things before finding Collective.
I pledge because I now regularly greet my friends with a hug and part with an “I love you.” And I mean what I am saying! Collective has allowed me to experience the love of people better that I ever have in the past.
I pledge so that everyone can have the opportunity to experience the genuine love, peace and joy that I feel from this wonderful community. I am grateful every day that God put this community in my path.
I pledge because so that Collective can continue to grow and flourish and bring the message of an open and affirming church, and so this community, Collective, can find its way into the paths of as many folks as possible; please pledge if you are able.
Carl M. Harmon
We are a misfit faith community that gathers in DeLand on Sundays at 5pm. Come as you are.
We value highly the metaphor of journey. We’re different people from different places and backgrounds, representing an intergenerational community, and we’ve traveled different paths. So, we agree not to make assumptions about the person across from us, next to us, or in conversation with us. We challenge ourselves to be sensitive, knowing this community includes a diverse group of people from life-long followers of Jesus, to people who are just now open to the idea that God might exist. We strive to avoid offense, ask good questions, articulate and explain our responses. We don’t assume fluency in bible, spirituality, or Church language, because we believe the message of Jesus is not for Christianity, but for humanity. So, we do everything in the spirit of love and grace.