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I was born and raised a Catholic with 16 years of Catholic education. I am a psychotherapist, addiction professional, and a spiritual director as a result of all I gleaned from my Catholic mentors. I had a profound experience of the love of God in the woods in upstate New York in March of 1973 and haven't felt alone ever since. Yet, my soul has been hungry for more. I wanted more of God's love, the experience of genuine community where I can share it, and a deep hunger for justice.
I have searched for these in Catholic, Charismatic, Episcopal and non-denominational churches. The last church I was in required a 45 minute one way drive. I taught, led groups, helped develop a healing ministry and actively participated there for 7 years because the pastor was excellent. When our attendance slacked due to the distance, work and health issues, only one person called wondering how we were. By this time I was fed up with churchianity, legalism that I saw rampant most churches and its results in many of the patients I serve in my private psychotherapy practice. I was told Christianity was a belief system and a belonging system. You can learn a lot when you do a little reading on your own and pay attention to your experience. I have learned through experience that Christianity is a transformational system. That's why I am part of Collective Church.
In my spiritual travels, I discovered the Perennial Tradition, which teaches: There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things. There is in human souls, a natural capacity, similarity and longing for this Divine Reality. The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.
I find this being lived out in the Collective Church in the following ways: Most importantly for me, during our Sunday night services, time is devoted to silent wordless prayer. Ben and Caitlin's familiarity with the ancient Christian mystics and those of other religions add a depth and breadth to our experience of liturgy that, for me, is indispensable.
There is real pastoral care here. One Sunday, as I stood, deciding where I wanted to sit, I felt a warm, caring heartfelt hand on my shoulder that stayed there long enough to say, 'I'm glad you're here, I care.” I turned to see it was Ben's hand. When my mother died, Ben called to see if I was OK and if I needed anything. That meant a lot to me. So does Ben's openness and vulnerability about his own struggles. Safe space is created for the LGBTQ community. The first time we walked in here, a transgender person was doing the Scripture reading. That was one of the first indications we might be in the right place for us, a place where all people are valued. David Malinowski's genuinely heartfelt hugs are also indications to me of real care and concern for this community. Collective has supported the provision of clean drinking water in poverty stricken parts of the world. Collective has supported a local orphanage, the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home recently. When I first heard Ben say no one would be turned away from our communion table, I was hooked. This is a church where the altar is a catalyst for unity, not division.
Real community is built through respectful, relevant weekly discussions during the service, that help me grow in awareness of God's presence and my lack of presence at times. OpenTable experiences in the homes of the Garrett family, Josephs, Wilson family, Katie Holmes, including Fireside Moonrise parties at the Vaughen’s open me to give and receive more love and concern for and from others. At Pints and Parables, we bring intelligent discussions based on parables or poems, into bars and restaurants all over DeLand twice a month. Our focus deepens my awareness of God, beauty, pain, and spiritual paths that lead me deeper into the Mystery. I am a storyteller and this is a soul nourishing experience for me. Collective builds supportive relationships with various businesses around DeLand. Collective recently helped clean the streets after the Christmas Parade. We even helped celebrate Coming Out Day on the streets of DeLand with a deeply moving spiritual talk by Dan Hensley. While we do read from Scripture, time and attention is devoted to the first Bible, Nature. We go on meditative walks in beautiful woods in the DeLand area. These feed my soul in ways I can't put into words.
Collective has hosted prophetic cutting edge teachers like Brian McLaren and Peter Rollins. Collective is a place that teaches and practices an Alternative Orthodoxy. Ben doesn't teach about a transactional god, who requires certain behavior in exchange for love and an eternal reward. No, Ben's sermons invite us to explore the Mystery of God's unconditional love in various ways that have direct application to our lives each week. I see Collective as a hospital, a safe place for those who have been spiritually abused, who feel discouraged and alienated as a result.
Looking to the future, I see many churches learning from our model and creating safe havens of spiritual refuge and growth all over Florida and beyond. I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have a place where they can experience the healing power of meditation, real pastoral care and genuine extended family. That's why we support Collective financially. We invite you to do the same.
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.