Finding Community [Part 1]
- March 31, 2021
- Sage Blalock
Few things have been as difficult in my faith journey as finding new community when leaving the old one behind. In the last ten years, it’s something I’ve had to do over and over again. As an introvert, it’s a struggle that goes to the core of who I am. But my hardships in that area go deeper than that.
My home church back in Tennessee was a spiritual oasis for me growing up. I started attending around ten years old and consistently so all the way through high school. God saved me there, I forged lifelong friendships with my cousins Derek and Justin there, and I gained my first spiritual/discipleship mentor there. Then came college.
For the first two years, I was technically involved with a student ministry that served as a place for me to make friends and spread the gospel on campus. While I met some people there, the roots didn’t grow deep enough. It felt like Jamie and I were missing something in our college experience and that the ministry wasn’t working for us on a personal level. We seriously considered transferring to a bigger, far more orange school closer to home.
But after some intense discussion, heartfelt prayer, and more than a few tears, we decided to stay. And God blessed that decision more than either of us could have ever imagined. Some of the people we knew casually became our best friends, friends that we still talk to and hang out with as often as we can. Our roots grew deeper in our faith and we truly connected in a beautiful way. Those last two years of college were some of the best years of our lives. Then came grad school.
Jamie and I left Tennessee for North Carolina. She went after a Master of Arts degree in Communication while I left philosophy for divinity school. There is another post somewhere down the line with the details of that experience, but I’ll give the short story now. I wanted to get out of the conservative bubble of my past to get an education from and in conjunction with people from more liberal and progressive schools of thought. While this was incredibly helpful for my evolution as a person (I learned more about different ideologies, I expanded my intellectual horizons with regards to politics and society, I took a screenwriting class that helped me find my passion, etc.), I can’t deny that those three years challenged me and often left me gasping for theological air.
My deep, profound theological differences kept me from making connections with ministries or churches that my colleagues were involved with. I felt isolated in believing things I thought central to Christianity, most notably Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Due to a degree requirement, I was tasked with finding and completing an internship with a local church or ministry. That’s when I found Reynolda.
I’ll spare the well-tread ground for those who listened to Bite Size Theology or read my previous blogs on the topic, but what you need to know today is that James and Chris at Reynolda kept me sane during those three years. Without them, I would probably be a monk two years into a seven-year vow of silence in Tibet right now. Everyday they reminded me I wasn’t crazy or a fascist for believing Jesus was a real person or that he died for our sins like he said he did. Not only that, but they also gave us the platform to start the Bite Size Theology podcast, reuniting John, Aaron, and I after we all moved to the four corners of the world. Well, Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Then came real life. Tune in next time for our trip to Columbus, our year (plus) in relative darkness, and the hope God provided in the midst of it all.