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“A church is just people. It needs the community to form.”
Katie Holmes first came to Collective September 2013 as a freshman at Stetson University. She had spent the early part of the semester floating between free food events among the campus ministries, shopping for a faith community and finding friends along the way. Many of those friends attend a larger congregation that Katie couldn’t feel connected to. The mega-church feel stung old wounds from past experiences, so when her friends Ian and Natalie Campbell invited her to a small and local church, she came with curiosity and excitement. Katie was hooked by the music and discussion. She loved the misfit coffeehouse energy to the space, and felt safe to engage in conversation and voice her questions. Notoriously shy, Katie remembered how Mike Miller would always make her talk. Through those early conversations she met people like Deana Carr, Mike Furlong, and Turner Swann and developed personal relationships that kept her coming back. She grew to deeply value the discussion, regardless of how often she would participate, saying, “I loved how the services weren’t about giving you a message and wishing you a good week. Instead, it was, ‘Chew on this, and let’s talk about it next week.’” After initially exploring her way through campus ministries and free food events, Katie’s journey lead her to a community where the meal never had to end, one where the table was always open.
When asked about what she thought the vision was for Collective when she first walked through the door 5 years ago, Katie said she thought it was about defining against what they were not and in doing so opening themselves to be anything they wanted to be. She liked how there was an open bar in the back, and how although its nature was rebellious and anti-tradition, its real mission was to support a local small business owner and community member, Andy Sistrunk. She loved how the band emerged from within the congregation, noting how it was comforting to see the community on stage. “Church has never been something important to me,” Katie said, “But community always has been. I found that here.” In addition to her cultivated community, Katie has continued to come back over the last half-decade for the sermon content. She claims that Ben has never repeated a sermon and is yet to recycle an invitation to the open table. “Where else can you get comedy, rest, death, and restoration in the calendar year?” Katie explained, “It’s never been boring. No series has felt like church, they all feel like life.”
I asked Katie what she hoped the vision for Collective is now, as we begin to finalize the chartering process and emerge as an autonomous church in the Florida Annual Conference. She said she has valued Collective’s ability to feel homegrown; specifically observing and participating in the way this community is able to make the moving pieces come together naturally, with intention. She commented how the reality is Collective is becoming less homegrown and more structured, but maintaining the wonderful intention to let things naturally manifest. She believes Collective is representative of the best parts of this DeLand community she cares so deeply for, saying, “A church is just people. It needs the community to form.” She hopes this congregation can stay true to its small business philosophy, both in its own personal finances and in the way it supports the overall DeLand community. She believes in the influence Stetson has on this small town and how it inspires our academia-oriented nature. These aspirations seek to honor the entirety of DeLand, inviting the whacky wholeness of the community to be alive and present at our always open table.
Finally, Katie picked 3 words to describe Collective from a preconstructed word bank. “Wisdom, meaningful work, and community,” described what she loved most about Collective. “Fame, status, and patriotism,” were words she felt represented our community the least. I’m excited to see the patterns and consistencies that will surface from the word bank. I hope that it may begin to unveil a deeper understanding of the values experienced within Collective. Be on the lookout next for my interview with the splendid Cynde Malinowski!
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.
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