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“Family. Joy. Community.”
Ethan Wilson is 9 years old and about to enter the 5th grade. He has a love for checkers and science, and is currently studying to become a paleontologist. His favorite dinosaur is the stegosaurus. We sat down to chat about his experience at Collective over frozen yogurt and monster cookies. Ethan was born in Mississippi, and moved to Kentucky onto Flagler. He has sparse memories of ant mold and cousin-filled gatherings from before his family settled in DeLand when he was 6 years old.
His first experience at Collective was the 2017 Easter Soul Brunch. Up to that point, Ethan had next to no prior experience within a church. Vague, lingering memories of past Christmas services were his only few predispositions; he was lucky and free to be present at brunch with fresh eyes and a scientist’s questions. Although not knowing what to expect, he said, “I wasn’t exactly sure this was, what’s the word, church!” His original perception of church was fancy clothes and silent meals. He was prepared to sit at a long table for the entirety of brunch, so he was incredibly surprised when things turned out to be, “completely opposite” saying, “There was delicious food and more fun than I could have ever imagined.” When Ethan and his family attended the full service later that night, he brought with him his interested and open mind. He was thrilled by the music, an initial point that his mother said kept them coming back. “I was surprised, shocked even, when they started playing,” Ethan said. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what was so shocking, but similar to brunch, his early imaginations of church were being quickly adapted.
I went on to ask Ethan about his experiences at Collective Kids. Ethan remembers first coming when there was no kids programming, and while interested in the big room, it could sometimes feel a little drab. Intergenerational nights have felt special and fun, and although we love having his questions and perspective in the room with us, he feels more comfortable across the street. He has been grateful for the small group providing him the space he says, “Where I have met all of my friends.” Ethan exudes an eagerness to learn, and compared some of the kids’ programming to school. He values the ability to have lessons that are open to questions and conversations which parallel his schooling; however, he is appreciative of the action-oriented learning at Collective Kids. He says there are fun lessons that are more about storytelling and activities rather than merely being talked at about subjects. When I asked about his favorite lesson, he offered, “Everyone is different, but we are also all the same.” I inquired about this great equalizer, and Ethan told me we are the same in that, “Everyone wants to be loved.”
Ethan did not think much about the purpose of Collective when he first began coming in the spring of 2017, but in hindsight he shared the assumption that Collective’s purpose, “was probably the same as other churches,” adding, “But better.” Even though Ethan has little experience with these “other churches,” he cited how Collective does our community statement as the differential factor. “Some people, for various reasons, have less rights. Young or old or otherwise, people can get overlooked, but Collective throws that out the window.” I am like Ethan in the fact I have little church experience outside of the Collective community, so I asked him what he thought church’s traditional purpose was. Put simply, he said, “For people to learn about God.” I was curious about what he might have meant by God; a simple question for a 9 year old, really. Unwavered, but with careful consideration, Ethan admitted, “I have never thought about this before Collective, but I think God is love and without it the world would be meaningless.” Ethan and I talked about how Collective has given us both new language to express what we think about the world and how we want to be in it. Thanks to language learned in our community, Ethan believes we are all collectively connected by a desire to be loved, and that God is the loving experience we yearn for that brings meaning to the world.
Ethan hopes that not much will change as we transition into chartering as an official church recognized by the Florida Annual Conference, reminding me that Collective is wonderful as it is. The words he selected to positively represent Collective were, “Family, Joy, and Community,” and he felt that “Challenge, Competition, and Power,” were words that opposed Collective’s purpose. It was a true pleasure to hear my intergenerational friend’s perspective on his time within our community. As a person who once had my questions stifled and dismissed in my early experience of church, it felt so exciting to provide a space for Ethan to be heard and wonder. Be on the look out for next week’s blog continuing to explore the stories of purpose from within our community. - Nate Caruso
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.
Paid Professional Childcare Available during Sunday Services
1 - 5 years of age | Childcare
6 - 11 years of age | Collective Kids