Two years ago, Emily Spooner was ready to walk away from church. “I thought, ‘If I can’t find somewhere that fits, and fits quickly, I might be out for good.’”
Emily grew up in a church that heavily restricted what women could do. “It was very affluent, and not super diverse,” she says. “My parents intentionally raised us in the city to be exposed to lots of different people, but we ended up in this church that was not that way at all.”
When she hit college, Emily was ready for a break. “I never really walked away from faith, but I thought that I could do it on my own.” That seemed to work for a while, but eventually Emily realized she was missing out on something.
“I realized that keeping faith personal was a protective mechanism to keep myself from being hurt. I had a gut sense that faith-based community has a richness that transcends other communities. So I had to ask-am I willing to risk being really hurt to get this thing that I don’t think I can get any other way?”
Years before, Emily had visited Mosaic and had a positive experience. In the spring of 2016, she decided to give it another try. “That day there was a woman preaching and I thought, ‘Ok, this is it. This seems like a community where everyone has a voice, and we’re learning from all kinds of different people.’”
Yet Emily still found herself on edge. “I thought, ‘I’m not gonna get super involved.’ I wanted to have the option to leave.”
That’s when Mosaic’s senior pastor Brad Zinn invited her to be part of a group called Faith Reimagined that met for six consecutive weeks. “Initially I thought it might be theology 101, and I didn’t need that after growing up in the church.” But Emily quickly realized Brad had something else in mind.
“We started by talking about all the reasons we would not want to have anything to do with faith,” Emily remembers. “Each week someone would share part of their experience with church and faith, and that was really meaningful for me.”
When Emily shared, she walked back to her memories of her first church. “I had never laid out and named all of those experiences before,” she says. “When I did, the response I got was ‘me too’ or ‘I’m really sorry.’”
At the last session of Faith Reimagined Brad asked the group to reflect on their experience. Did they get what they hoped for? That’s when Emily realized that Faith Reimagined had been her way of testing Mosaic.
“I was asking, ‘Are we going to talk about real things? Is it going to be ok for me to bring all of myself to this? If not, I’m out. If so, then maybe I can stick around.’”
When she realized that Mosaic had passed, she reoriented her life. “I thought, “I’m gonna go all in. And very quickly, I did.” She relocated from center city to West Philadelphia. She started leading a small group and became a member. Six months after her first visit, she bought a home two blocks from the church.
Once upon a time, Emily would have looked for Jesus alone. These days she has a community to share the struggles, and the celebrations, with.
Interview and article by Rebecca DeWhitt.
At Mosaic we talk to so many people who have bad experiences of church. If you are processing a negative church experience and want to talk more, our senior pastor Brad Zinn would love to buy you coffee. Hit him up at email@example.com.
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