Amanda

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Amanda

I spent my childhood years in a large evangelical church, and the first decade of my adult life in a rapidly growing southern baptist church. Being an extrovert, I felt energized by being around so many other people who were passionate about following the Lord. I am a "do-er," and I loved being in communities that were mission minded, all about service and reaching out to the community and world around us.

Through my service in our previous church, God opened our hearts to international adoption.  Through years in process and constant emotional and spiritual upheaval, our lives changed drastically. I realized that while all of the "doing" was necessary, I was missing something crucial... truly abiding in the presence of God. I recognized that I needed the disciplines of silence, solitude, meditation, and prayer in my life just as abundantly as the disciplines of service, worship, and celebration. More than that, I needed to learn these disciplines, to be taken by the hand and led in them by someone who has experienced them.

My initial experience in this was at the first LUMINOUS project conference I attended a few years ago. To this day, I am profoundly thankful that I was able to be there and experience what it was like to be led into a deep awareness of the presence of God, and to rest in it - unconcerned about hearing something specific, unhindered by awkwardness in the silence - simply resting in God's presence and abiding love. It was the first time I had been in a community of believers where I felt that I didn't need to trivialize my struggles, or follow up a confession of them with a reassurance that my faith was unwavering. For the first time, I began to experience what it meant to have joy in suffering. Not to gloss over the suffering, thereby trivializing the miracle of joy, but to allow the magnitude of it to amplify God's gift in the midst of a very dark time.

Now that Luminous Parish has become more than we imagined from the beginning, I am once again overwhelmed with gratitude. I am thankful for a place that not only talks of listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit, but provides space for us to do so together; a place to re-center our focus on God's presence rather than feeling a necessity to produce everything down to the second; a respite from life’s chaos. I'm thankful for a community that recognizes that all the going and doing in the world will leave you hollow eventually if not balanced by the stillness of simply being in communion with the Father, and makes the latter as high a priority as the former. The balance of both is so very crucial, not only to our individual spiritual health, but to the work that the Lord has for us as the Body.

What a gift this new bend in the road has turned out to be. I am grateful to be part of it, and excited to see where God leads.

Amanda

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Ellen

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Ellen

I’ve grown up in a world where parents and grandparents stayed married for a lifetime and a single employer was kept until retirement but, my goodness, we were transient in our search for “the perfect church.”  I was reluctant to be confirmed because I felt if I didn’t officially begin this “partnership,” then it would never officially end.  In my world, walking into a church meant there would inevitably be a day we would walk out for the last time.  I don’t want Luminous Parish to be yet another congregation on an already lengthy list of churches I can say I went to “for a time.”

We went to a Baptist church a few years ago where the pastor encouraged everyone who had been baptized to become members.  That invitation always included the challenge, however, to find the right church if his wasn’t the one for you. I was struck by how liberating that was, to have his blessing.  For once, someone wasn’t trying to guilt me into a church membership, and more importantly, he made me feel it was such a promise, that eventually I would find that place if I had enough faith to find it.

I’ve come to Luminous Parish with a heart more guarded and perhaps more jaded than ever.  No church is perfect, I get that.  But as a person who has spent her entire life standing on the outside looking in, I want to feel like I belong.

That belonging thing is slow in its development, mostly because I can’t get out of my own way, but something deeper has taken root.  I’m awkward, so I love the routine of Sunday nights-the more I know of what to expect, the less chance I have to make an idiot of myself.  With that said, nothing can prepare me for some of the internal dialogue; conversations and prompts and revelations that stirs from deep within that can’t possibly be of my imagination because, truly, I am really not that smart.  Perhaps it is the silences, the recitations, the lack of distractions, but I feel compelled to worship in ways that I never have before.  A relationship is being cultivated with my creator that has transcended the type of relationship I had with Him before.  I look forward to visiting the daily office.  I look forward to what He will reveal to me next, even though if it is on Sunday night, I might include a quick prayer to not make me cry, yet again, in front of anyone.  And as I look back over the year, I see a person who is better than I was before.

We talk a lot about Peace at Luminous Parish. I feel like I have that, for the first time, ever.  I’ve learned to let go, too, of the need to find my “forever church.”  This is where I feel He has led me for right now.  As long as I am standing where He wants me to be, I truly am right where I belong.

Ellen

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