HOW DID WE BEGIN—AND WHY?

 

(Excerpt from a newspaper article about us)

 

Picture a sharp female attorney—someone who became disillusioned by the closed minds, exclusivism, sexism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia and authoritarianism of so many of the Columbia churches with which she was familiar.  She became a religious dropout, a spiritual orphan, but one with an acute awareness of an inner need for spiritual roots.  When she encountered Dr. John Whatley, discovered his academic credentials, his experience as a professor and pastor, and his incredible warmth and spirit of openness, she asked him about the possibility of beginning a new fellowship in Columbia, open to all—one that could provide a spiritual home for herself and other thoughtful individuals, but which, while open to the truth in other world religions, could help people address contemporary issues and needs primarily by taking seriously the incredible wealth of wisdom embodied in the teachings of Jesus.  Consequently, the Community Church of the Midlands was born—a small new fellowship that values diversity and emphasizes spiritual growth rather than dogmas and creeds.

 

When asked why the Community Church exists, Dr. Whatley, its senior pastor, indicated that the fellowship came into being primarily to serve two purposes.  The first is to provide a meaningful place for disenfranchised persons who have been burned by unhealthful, inauthentic expressions of Christianity.  “Many of these people are spiritually hungry—consciously or unconsciously—for a Meaning to give meaning to all their lesser meanings, but have no place to go,” Whatley said.  “Those who have been burned include refugees from rigid fundamentalist churches, exclusivist groups that practice ‘selective loving,’ churches that have little or no patience with persons who have honest religious doubts, and congregations that major on empty activism and messages filled with fluff but little substance.  The disenfranchised are welcome here.”

 

The second reason CCM exists is to provide a place for persons who have had reasonably meaningful church experiences but who want to go deeper than their religious communities have been able to take them.  “At CCM, people are not condemned to hear only that which they already have heard,” Whatley commented.  “We like to help them discover the joy of tapping their growing edges, their hidden potential; and that potential isn’t likely to be realized by their being subjected to an endless recital of pious platitudes, trite aphorisms and meaningless clichés.  We try to provide a constructive alternative.”

 

Whatley continued:  “Our focus is on a threefold spiritual path.  There is an upward journey—a quest for that which is ultimate, an inward journey—exploring what God is doing to nudge us toward authenticity and fullness of life, and an outward journey—getting in touch with our giftedness, our ability to make a difference in the world.  When our fellowship began, all members, except for three persons, elected to be involved in some form of service—within our church, in the community, or both.  That was exhilarating!”

Given the unique orientation of CCM, its senior minister, and its well-qualified associate ministers, it isn’t surprising that people have traveled up to an hour to escape what one person described as “the spiritual myopia” of previous churches by taking advantage of this warm, welcoming, and view site diverse fellowship of thoughtful people from over 10 different denominations.

 

(This article about the Community Church appeared in the June/July, 2005, issue of the AVENEWS newspaper.  We express our sincere gratitude.)