Can you tell us about a moment when you truly felt at home in the church?
About 14 years ago, when I was still a babe in Christ, a sweet woman by the name of Stefnie Evans approached me after church, introduced herself, and invited me to a “prayer meeting” at her house. Being a new Christian, I was a little confused by what that meant, but I accepted her invitation and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Stefnie met with me and three other women on a weekly basis. She prayed over us, taught us the Word, and modeled what an intimate relationship with the Lord is truly like. She has been my mentor ever since and has loved me like her own daughter. This type of agape love can be wrought only within the body of Christ, and I’m grateful for her and the church.
—Ekemini Uwan, public theologian and co-host of Truth’s Table Podcast
When my friend Seth was baptized, I knew I’d found a home at church. Seth likes music, is proud of his job, and we are occasional workout buddies. He also has Down syndrome, which—because of other people’s perceptions of him—limits his opportunities for relationships and narrows his community. This is a loss for Seth and for those who miss out on receiving his gifts of laughter and curiosity. Though he doesn’t have the capacity for deep, abstract thought, in his confession upon being baptized, he committed all that he understood about himself to all that he understood about Jesus. Isn’t that all any of us do? Equally important, the community of faith stood and affirmed their collective commitment to his spiritual flourishing and to receiving his spiritual or ministry gifts. Being “in Christ” together is one place where the boundaries created by the world have no bearing. Being “in Christ” with Seth as a part of my congregation makes me feel welcome.
—Benjamin T. Conner, professor of Practical Theology, director of the Graduate Certificate in Disability and Ministry at Western Theological Seminary, and author of Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness
The church isn’t a place that I, as a single woman, often feel at home. But one of my first Sundays in Colorado Springs, I watched a large family file in—twins, a toddler, a slightly frazzled-looking mom carrying a sleeping baby, and then the dad, toting coloring books and coffee. We exchanged warm smiles, and as soon as the service ended, the woman asked my name. She introduced me to her entire family, immediately put my contact information into her phone upon learning I was new in town, and invited me to brunch the next week. In fact, she asked me to bring a side dish. I was delighted! In that moment I felt so seen, so valued, so wanted. Our potluck brunch—and resulting friendship—taught me there’s always room for one more at the table.
—Joy Beth Smith, managing editor at Christianity Today and author of Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness
One Navajo tradition is that when your child first laughs, you have what’s called a laughing party. The child gives gifts to everyone who comes, which teaches generosity, kindness, and compassion. When our daughter first laughed, we invited both native Christians and native non-Christians as well as white Christians. After a feast of roasted mutton, corn, and frybread, we had a time of prayer and blessings for our daughter. People prayed in Navajo and in English, and one guest from the Netherlands even prayed for her in Dutch. In this beautiful moment, a body of believers came together—embracing the discomfort of our diversity—and allowed Navajo culture to shine through. It blessed both our daughter and our guests in a very traditional way that absolutely affirms the values of Christ.
—Mark Charles, columnist, co-author of the forthcoming book Truth Be Told, and founder of Would Jesus Eat Frybread?—a national conference for Native students