C3 Church Stories
Imagination of Grace: A Reflection of Calling at Round Hill Community Church
By Katya Kozachuk
You are invited to a dinner in a quaint town that fills that coastal landscapes of Connecticut. A dinner hosted for nine people. And at this dinner, you might not necessarily know any of those nine people or even be in the same age group, but nonetheless, you are invited to share a meal with these nine other people.
However, this isn’t just any dinner. It’s a dinner that feeds not only one’s belly but also one’s heart and soul.
At Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich, once or twice a month, nine people gather in the parlor to share meals and stories of recently encountered unexpected grace. These dinners are chances for people to dig deep into seeing God’s grace threaded through the daily lives of their community. When those nine people gather to reflect on God’s grace moving in their everyday life, it’s an opportunity to see God’s story being written through their life. These dinners at Round Hill give people the courage to tap into God’s calling for their life and their community.
Actually, Round Hill is on a voyage exploring the ideas surrounding God’s calling for their church. As a church, they’ve been asking questions that challenge them to think of how God’s presence is moving in their community at every moment of every day. If you’ve ever ventured to the coast of New England, you’ll notice that people aren’t particularity open to the “Christian lingo” that comes with being a Christ follower. Thus, when members at Round Hill started engaging the language of calling, they became more open to experiencing and seeing the living God in their midst.
One could say, that understanding calling begins with being open to the idea that God’s grace drenches and moves continually through our daily lives.
What’s remarkable to witness at Round Hill is the new passion people are experiencing, which is fostering new life in the community. As people are becoming more aware of God’s rhythms in their life, they feel themselves drawn to creating projects, being a part of committees, and planning different events for the community.
The churchgoers of Round Hill dare to respond to the things they are feeling drawn to.
These things that people are feeling drawn to start as small seeds, but then bloom into things that give life. Things that help them and us discover and rediscover God’s love and grace.
When people are responding to the things they feel drawn to, it’s not necessarily their profession or career, but something that’s allowing them to tap into a place of imagination. The imagination that gives us the courage to hope that the living God is in our midst, forming us into the people of God.
When we allow ourselves to tap into that imagination, we give God space to not only drench us with love but also form us into communities that make the kingdom of God tangible and accessible to all.
As Round Hill Community Church continues to voyage on the calling exploration, may we too have the courage to tap into the imagination of grace.
Pins of Peace: The Called People of Sacred Heart
By Katya Kozachuk
There’s a peculiar, but beautiful thing happening in the corners of Southbury, Connecticut. You’ll see people are walking through the town with identical pins attached to either their favorite cardigan, t-shirt, backpack, blazer, etc.
However, these pins are no ordinary pins. They are peace pins, and nearly 700 were gifted to people in the community by the Sacred Heart Church. These pins symbolize the reality that there is something other at work in their community and beyond their community. The otherness of the reality that these pins symbolize is that the living God is in our daily grind.
Sacred Heart’s mission with these pins is to cultivate community. A community that is called to be beacons of light and peace in a hurting and broken world. As a community, they’ve noticed that these pins give people, not only an awareness of being able to see God move in their lives but also, it’s given their church members courage to talk about the things they actively see God doing openly.
Members of Sacred Heart are sharing stories with one another that feature moments of God appearing in their day. It’s like God is grabbing a coffee with them at their favorite local coffee shop or walking with them through the grocery store aisles. These pins are creating a community that is not only aware of God’s presence in their midst—moving with them throughout their day—but also, a community that’s called to participate in the kingdom of God.
These God sightings are creating new life and passion because people are eagerly wanting to share and participate in the Kingdom of God. Not only are the adults at Sacred Heart wanting to share, but children actively raise their hands to proclaim the works of God in their lives. This is extraordinary because the kids at Sacred Heart, rarely shared anything about their faith, let alone talk about the living God moving in their midst. The occurrences of children sharing increased after they took a mission’s trip. So, even children participate in the Kingdom of God.
But what does it mean to be a called community of God that participates in the Kingdom of God? Sacred Heart not only wants to know God within their church community but also make God known beyond the walls of their church. For being aware of God’s presence is to know God’s love. Those who participate in the Kingdom of God join God in making that love known.
People at Sacred Heart want to make God’s love know because they themselves have been transformed by the love that gives them access to the presence of God. Internally in their life, the work of God is moving, creating, beautifying them into God’s called community. And it is from that place of transformation that they participate with God to make that love and beauty known in the greater part of Southbury. A way they make God’s presence known is through their Steven Ministry.
The Heart of Steven Ministry at Sacred Heart is just to go out and be a presence for people who are struggling, grieving, or going through any sort of “heart ship.”
So, to be called by God is to be present with those who are burdened and broken-hearted. The love and presence of God moves in our daily life and gives us the courage to spread that love and presence by being aware that the living God is in our midst.
A Reflection on Calling at First Presbyterian Church in Allentown, PA
By Katya Kozachuk
Do you remember that time where people actually came together and talked? Before the smartphone, Amazon Prime, and social media, people actually came together to have the original ‘Face Time.’ Instead of living life behind the screen, the original Face Time requires that people to not only be in each other’s space, but it also requires that people interact with one another in real-time. The First Presbyterian Church, in Allentown Pennsylvania, decided to try the original Face Time as a church by creating intentional space for people to come together and converse during the summer season.
These conversations weren’t just any conversations. They were invitations for church members to have meaningful engagements about the ways they see God moving in their lives. As a church, they’ve been exploring the idea of calling. What they’ve discovered is that calling requires community and incorporates creativity. In Allentown, story sharing about calling gives church members hope and courage to see what God is doing. Storytelling inspires them to see that the most important thing about calling isn’t necessarily responding perfectly to the ways that God draws them into God’s imagination, but their willingness and openness to God’s imagination. To be open and willing to God’s imagination requires vulnerability. It requires people to let other’s in on the story they see God writing with their lives. Calling isn’t about what we ourselves are doing or the ways we individually are seeing God moving in our lives. Instead, it’s about being present, hospitable, and generous with one another as we discern the intimate ways God is moving them, as a community, into the Kingdom of God. These Face Time moments at First Presbyterian allow the whole community to be known and seen. When the church creates a space for stories to be known and seen, they are participating in God’s loves because calling begins with being known and seen by God.
For when we know that we are known and seen by God, we have the boldness of faith and the courage of hope to respond to the things we feel God is leading us to do. Having a space to share our God longings with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ not only shows us that we are not alone, but it illuminates that our calling is so much bigger than just ourselves. What these Face Time moments in Allentown, reveal is that God calls not only the young adults, but also the children, the elderly, and all those who are willing to lean into the reality that God is with us.
What we can learn from First Pres in Allentown, Pennsylvania is that it’s ok not to have our whole calling discerned or figured out. Instead, what they’ve learned is that calling is a process that we discern and participate with one another in community. It is a journey of discovering God’s love and being challenged to step out in faith, even when it doesn’t make sense. It also gives us the courage to stand with one another when what we were discerning doesn’t lead to a victory or have a world-changing impact. God’s calling is more about knowing that God is with us and that we are not alone.