What our church means to some of us
As you read the testimonies below, consider the words of pastor-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
"By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.
The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community, the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community."
"I was recently asked at a NCWC bible study what was it that kept bringing me back to this church. I had been a member of another church in town for almost 18 years before I landed at NCWC. My previous church was and still is an amazing church. Some of the reasons for being there so long are the same reasons I now attend NCWC. They include things I always look for in a church such as the preaching being theologically sound and socially relevant as well as participating in communion every week as a church family. But there are a couple other significant reasons that draw me to NCWC.
As a Latina (Mexican-American) previously attending a predominantly Caucasian, middle class church that did not make ethnic diversity a priority, I somehow always felt that I left a huge part of who I am checked at the front door. As a Christian I know that my identity is first and foremost in Christ, but as a Christian I also know that the Bible does not encourage us to deny our ethnic identity. Moses, Mordecai, Esther, Paul and Jesus himself are examples of people of whom God used to accomplish his will while they lived out and embraced their ethnicity. As a Mexican-American my cultural heritage is made up of two cultures neither of which I can deny. My desire to be part of a church that reflected and embraced the diversity of our community was growing stronger with each passing year. After all we are ALL going to be living together forever right? Shouldn’t we get some good practice in now? Secondly we miss out tremendously by not engaging people who are different than us. Every culture I believe reveals another dimension of who God is.
My worship experience and my Christian life is so much richer when I worship and live out my faith with brothers and sisters from all different backgrounds, cultures, ages, economic standing, etc. When you walk in the doors at NCWC you will notice that it is not a big church, you won’t be able to sneak out the back door, but you will also notice it reflects our diverse Santa Barbara community in BIG ways and that’s also part of the reasons that keeps bringing me back."
"America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many. This is not prophecy, but description."
Ralph Ellison, Novelist (1914-1994)
"My quest for a community of believers, of followers of Jesus Christ, began anew after spending a month with my mother as she faced the newest challenge in her life - cancer. It was that hot sticky month in Boston that I realized how very central my faith in Jesus Christ was as the very real possibility of death loomed over my family.
When I returned to Santa Barbara, I began to prioritize what church would be for me - theologically evangelical, politically progressive, socially relevant and multi-racial and multi-generational. And oh yes, friendly people!
It seemed like an impossible task to find such a church. Yet I did. I landed in a place among people fully grounded in their Christian faith and fully committed to the social concerns of our day. To be surrounded by people who looked like the Kingdom of God - diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, family status, age and ability. As one who has been the minority in most contexts, I was finally in a setting where I was one of many equally sharing the blessings and burdens of community.
To be sure, it's a small community of less than a hundred so resources are undoubtedly will be limited. Each person will be asked to do more as there are less of us as compared to a larger church. I can't hide if I had a tough week. Every face is seen and acknowledged. As one who is more of an introvert and comes from a family and ethnic culture of silence, it's a personal challenge to rouse the energy to go every week, but in the end, I'm so very glad I did."
~ Elena Yee