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The definition of bittersweet, our heavy hearts are light with joy and support as we prepare to celebrate what Mike has meant to Collective, even as we send him off to step into the next phase of his life. Mike Furlong was being shaped by Collective influences before Collective existed; And Mike was shaping Collective before there was Collective to be shaped. The lives of this person and this congregation have been inextricably tangled, woven together for more than a decade. He can pull away, we can go on, but his impact will never leave us, as ours will never leave him.
The story of Mike's involvement with Collective begins with drum lessons, traverses lunches and hookah bars, re-brands and liturgical evolutions, and we wouldn't change a thing.
I met Mike, fittingly, through music. A band I was in performed at an event where he and Barb (Mike's mom) were present. Somehow we got talking and I ended up giving him drum lessons. I very quickly exhausted my value as an instructor, and the student surpassed the teacher. Mike went on through Middle and High School, our paths crossing every so often. Then we reconnected at Stetson, Mike as a student and me a campus minister.
We started having lunch, talking philosophy faith, life, theology, the perils of modern technology, the doom of the geopolitical realities of the world in which we find ourselves... etc. Pretty quickly a little congregation I was leading (one that would later fully develop into Collective) needed a musician to lead music and a place to meet. Mike graciously offered to consider the gig, as well as connect us with his friend Louise who ran a cool little Hookah Bar in town.
Mike has been a gift to this community and to so many of us individually. He's given so freely of the best he has to offer - his gracious personality, his musical gifts and talents, his commitment to faith and community, his respect for tradition and liturgy, and all of the ways he's held us so true to ourselves. With so much gratitude, it is difficult to watch him go, but it is our opportunity to share this goodness with another place, and to watch Mike progress into another phase of life.
Mike, you have all of our thanks, all of our support in your new endeavors - moving, music, marriage and more - and all of our love. We are yours as you are ours. The door is always open, a spot on the stage of the haunted house band will be yours as often as you make it home to us.
May the grace and peace that have held us fast these exciting years together, hold you and Sophie now, as you strike out, confident in the ones and in the love that stand behind you.
-By Ben Collins
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.