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A Prayer For Memorial Day
By Dan Vaughen
Every day I think of you, is Memorial Day.
Your photo catches my eye; a stranger carries your energy.
Your Spirit lingers in the spaces we shared.
Your name inhabits conversations with friends.
What a magical day and amazing event! thanks to everyone who joined us for our largest and most successful Easter Sunday yet. After two sell-out brunches, we held an intimate Baptism Service back at our temporary meeting place, The Table. We had many people ask if there would be a video or transcript of the Easter Sermon. We have included both below in this blog post. Please feel free to share and use however it can be helpful to others.
This is the sign on the door to the balcony in the Air BnB where we’re staying in St. Louis for GC 2019. “Welcome! - NO GUESTS ALLOWED.” At first this was funny. It’s not funny anymore.
After more than twenty years as members of a local Methodist Church, we changed our membership and offering to Collective. The decision was not done lightly, since this was Rachel’s families’ church since she was two-years old. We married and renewed our vows in this church. We baptized all four of our children in this church. Yet, after more than twenty-years of marriage in this one church, we realized our faith was more inclusive than many of our fellow Methodists. We found solace in the mission of Collective, from the “metaphor of journey” to doing “everything in the spirit of love and grace”.
Our daughter Katie first introduced us to Collective, shortly after a less than positive experience we had going to a Christian youth event at DeLand High School. The guest speaker lectured that Islam was the “Devil’s religion”, and that its followers would be denied entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. As educators, Christians, and parents, we were both bothered by the narrow message of Christianity that was being delivered to local high school students. This began a dialogue in our family about the role of Christianity in our national politics, and the weaponization of religion—faith that fears others and cultural change, faith that seeks conformity to old morays and customs. We began to question our own church, its members, and its congregational culture.
We realized that our ‘moderate’ Methodist Church did not view salvation as inclusive, as we did. We viewed the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ as much a metaphor for living as a destination. For us, the challenging journey to live like Christ was more important than a singular view of salvation through Christ.
When Katie brought us to Collective, we immediately felt at home but were torn leaving our other church family. It took us nearly a year to make the transition, as we were consistently reminded of what we valued in Collective. We saw Collective reaching out to the unchurched, to even those “who are just now open to the idea that God might exist." We saw Collective offering an inclusive Gospel that was welcoming to alternate lifestyles and gender identities. We enjoyed the use of secular music as a pathway to spirituality. For these and many other reasons we now call Collective home and financially support the Collective mission.
Join us and the family of Christ, in pledging your financial support to the Collective journey in 2019.
In Love and Grace,
Don & Rachel Sarro
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.
5 years ago, when we started attending Collective, it was due to my son coming home from having attended a service here. He was in 8th grade, and was going through the confirmation process at FUMC. One of the requirements for completing the confirmation process was to attend a different service than you otherwise attend with your mentor.
I grew up highly involved in a charismatic Christian church. I started playing in the worship band from the age of 10 and was a main worship leader by 15. Between the three regular services per week, various rehearsals, and other ministries I was involved in, my life revolved around the church. Every now and then I would travel to different parts of the country or world to minister through music and dance, as well as offering prophecy and healing prayer to people in churches or on the street. Also being homeschooled, for years, my life was fairly insulated.
Mine and Jon’s journey with Collective first began in the fall of 2013 when we were still broke newlyweds, long before we had the financial stability to give financially to Collective. Despite that we couldn’t donate in those early years, we have always felt like we were full members of the community.
As promised, we're sharing the new vision statement and vision priorities that were revealed in the service last night. It is a teaser because this Sunday we'll dive in much more depth into how each priority connects to the vision statement, where it arose in the feedback, and how we begin to flesh these out as a congregation.
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.