When I moved to Naples, I had already experienced many different church settings and experiences, Catholic, Episcopalian, Evangelical, and non-denominational communities among others. Consequently, I had become very ecumenical in my orientation, learning to value the contributions of each community along the way. Furthermore, I had come to value the working of the Holy Spirit not only in these churches but in my personal life as well.

 

As a result of these experiences, I was looking for many specific qualities in a church community, including:

 

  • A sense of community amongst its members
  • An activist church, engaged in the neighborhood
  • A church that got things done, like the book of James says, “. . . doers of the word and not hearers only.”
  • A congregation that grappled with a deeper understanding of the faith.
  • A community that liked to debate and discuss; a community not afraid of probing questions.

 

This list contains a lot of expectations. But that’s what I found at Emmanuel. I stumbled into finding this church because it is close to my condo. I ride my bike to church. As soon as I visited, however, I found myself deeply welcomed into the community.

“As soon as I visited, however, I found myself deeply welcomed into the community.”

In worship I experienced joy because of the music, yes, but also because of the stimulation from the sermons. I became a part of the team almost immediately, especially the educational program that focused on Faith, Vocation and Economics. I attended all the Bible Studies, Sunday Forums and special lecture series. These events touched on issues I found generative and life-giving because I had dedicated my personal and professional life to these same issues.

 

Here was a church community that wanted to discuss topics that were important to me in my daily life. I rarely go home after Sunday morning without my head buzzing with new ideas and questions. I run around with a notepad always jotting down new ideas, even during worship.

 

What a blessing that questions are welcomed and encouraged at Emmanuel. That is how I grow spiritually. This community at Emmanuel has allowed me to integrate my life in a powerful way; that is, the things I do now on Sundays align with and inform how I work during the week. That’s a special gift from the Holy Spirit for my life.

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