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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.
At Collective, there’s no awkward pass of a gold collection plate or obligation to give, and even though we choose to give now that we’re able, we’re still incredibly grateful that we have never felt pressured or pushed to do so. I hope whoever is reading this post feels that same sense of ease. These days, Jon and I give not just because we’re able, but because we want to support this amazing community that has offered us so much support when we needed it most.
Despite that we couldn’t donate in those early years, we have always felt like we were full members of the community.
For us, Collective has been a safe space to be ourselves, to ask hard questions, find community, and sometimes to grieve throughout the darker moments of our life together. Being surrounded by a nonjudgmental community during both the good times and the difficult has been an invaluable support to our family’s journey and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Collective celebrates individuals in the fullness of their humanity, no matter where they’re at in their spiritual journey and offers an experience of a community full of unconditional love, and that is why we give.
Back when we started attending Collective, neither Jon nor I were looking to get reacquainted with the church. Jon had grown up in a mostly non-religious household and felt no ties to any religion. Though I had been baptized in the Lutheran church and still considered myself a Christian at the time, I had left due to the treatment of the LGBT community. But when my brother, Kai, started attending Collective and shared that it was a positive experience for him as a trans man, we decided to attend. Jon and I both believe that a church should be a safe-haven for the marginalized, so the idea of an affirming church for those who would traditionally be turned away from appealed to us. We hadn’t even darkened Collective’s doors and already the community offered unconditional love and belonging to all the members of our family.
But it was a few months later that our involvement in the community was truly cemented. I had two miscarriages in those early days, and after my second consecutive loss, I was left with a lot of very difficult questions. I was angry, hurting, and tired of my grief being minimized to unfortunate, placating sayings like, “everything happens for a reason.” That was one the darkest times in mine and Jon’s life together, but Collective served as a safe space in that darkness to express our grief, our anger, and all the pain we were feeling. No one told us that our pain was inappropriate or that we were suffering ‘for a reason.’ The members of the community just sat with us in our grief, mourned with us, and loved us unconditionally, even when we were both angry enough that we were cussing out God. I’ll never forget when I asked Ben if he thought God was the cause of horrible things happening to people and his answer was essentially ‘if that’s who or what God is, I want no part in it.’ I’d never had a pastor or church member be so honest with me, and the fact that those difficult questions we had weren’t frowned upon but welcomed was what cemented our sense of belonging in the community. We both knew that this was a place where no matter what happened, we would be loved, cherished and made to feel like we belonged.
Over the years, Collective has been everything we’ve needed it to be. It hasn’t always been perfect, but neither are we and that’s perfectly okay, because Collective has always been a place of unconditional love and belonging. That’s why we give, and will continue to give, because unconditional love is our idea of what a church, God, and a community are meant to be.
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.