C3 Exchange’s spiritual journey

Apr 26, 2011


I had been going to C3 off and on before Ian Lawton, our current minister, came to town. They had interesting, progressive thinking classes and talks during the week but on Sunday their services were more traditional and didn’t match what I was hearing during the classes, so I stayed with Catholicism.

When Ian Lawton came to C3 I found his message to be stimulating, progressive, thought provoking and challenging — just what I was hungry for. So my husband, Justin, and I have been going to C3 for several years now and I have become a member. It has become our spiritual home.

C3 (Compassionate, Creative, Community) is an inclusive spiritual community accepting of all religious faiths and the diversity of all peoples. I am a Christian and we have every variety of Christian including former Catholics. We also have Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith. People who have become restless with their traditions have found a home at C3.  We have many new young families, retired ministers, professionals, university professors and more. The children have their own wonderful Sunday morning program. Before they go to their program, they are invited to the altar for a related lesson of the day. On some days, there are 20 to 40 kids, and it’s wonderful to see.

Changes were made at C3 and I was somewhat uncomfortable with a few of them. I had to rethink my beliefs. It was challenging, but as I did, I understood better who we are and the direction we are going

Yes, we took the cross down and changed our name. But if we want to be who we say we are “an inclusive spiritual community connected to a sense of mystery and love that many call God …we honor all spiritual paths … we celebrate the universal truths such as peace and unity found in all traditions … inspired by Jesus and social activists through the centuries who challenged the status quo… we value the human journey where all are encouraged to honor their minds and unique spiritual path,” then this became a matter of integrity. We are not just Christian, thus the downed cross and the name change.

Yes, we are struggling financially since many of our older members have left and many of our newer members have young families and less available cash. Also, since we are not backed financially by any other organization or synod, we own the finances including the debt. In our recent community meetings, we have decided that our message/values will not be compromised, even if we have to leave our building, which most of us hope will not happen. Lawton is a prophet and most prophets start small and build their following but unfortunately we inherited a large facility.

Our service has a theme each Sunday and consists of traditional readings from the Bible, Koran, Jewish Bible and other relevant contemporary readings and music. Lawton’s teaching is always thought provoking and challenging. Following the service we have “talk back” whereby 30-50 people exchange comments and ideas related to the sermon. Talk back is very enlightening. Occasionally we have guest speakers including rabbis and other ministers.

Churches of all faiths have declining membership and many young adults do not attend church. One has to question why this is. Is it because they find the content of the services, the dogma, myths, and traditions irrelevant to their lives in the 21st century?  C3 has been referred to as a pioneer in the Inclusive spiritual movement. Is it possible that our experimental community is the wave of the future?

C3 is a changing, growing community, a work in progress.

Kathleen Kleaveland is a member of C3 Exchange in Spring Lake.



Why is this on the front page?????? Stupid story,

Len Painter

This story was not on the front page of the newspaper. It was a column on the editorial page and not a story.


Wow, could you be more offensive? What a bunch of nonsense. In your closing, "growing community", really? How when you are getting so small you cant even afford your building?


Lawton a prophet? This sounds more and more like a cult!

The Voice


The Voice

change your organizations name to C4 Compasionate, Creative, Community Cult


It's great that some have found a spiritual home at C3, unfortunate that it was at the expense of hundreds of us who worshipped and supported the growth and spiritual journey of Christ Community Church. We were an "inclusive" community for more than 20 years and Ian was brought in to "continue" the journey. I find it offensive that C3 thinks they have invented something new. We went from more traditional to the open inclusive community at CCC and embraced change. It never occurred to me that this change would leave me cold and disconnected. We were booted from the RCA because we traveled the course to be inclusive and allow other religions to their beliefs. That path is open to you because we created it. Not without struggle, but ultimately with the congregation supporting the path to be an open inclusive community. I was there when we struggled with the decision to change the name from First Reformed of SL to Christ Community. It was difficult for some, but it was important for the future. The success of CCC over the years was obvious. The congregation grew, not stagnant, but growing in a spiritual journey. I am sorry to have lost my spiritual home. I wish the leader of C3 had just started a new "gathering" place and allowed Christ Community to search for a leader that allowed us to grow and learn without giving up everything we knew. I'm not adverse to change, or learning new things. I found peace in the Lord's Prayer and strength in a benediction -- a peace destroyed because it was too "Christian" and might make someone of another faith uncomfortable. What about my faith? What about my comfort level? We had a voice, the board just didn't listen, and Christ Community self-destructed to become C3. What a shame!


I want you to know that my comment was not made in disrespect to yours. Having come from the original C3, or FRSL, I can imagine how it must feel to have had to go through a change that you couldn't follow to the point where you had to leave. I do hope that you have found a spiritual place to settle that you are comfortable and happy in. It was through your loss that my family has been given a place where we can feel comfortable. Thank you, and all the best to you.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained libelous or defamatory statements. Discussion Guidelines


Sadly, this organization is a perfect reflection of this once great country's moral and religious fabric unraveling. The current generation is seeking something they can feel, see, and touch because there is no capacity for the faith our country was founded on. Please tend to my immediate psychological and physical needs because I cant reach my own bootstraps. And you wonder why the offering plate is empty.


Kathleen, thank you for your thoughtful piece. Not being from around here, and not sharing the exact same beliefs as most everyone around me—truly and the very freedom this country was founded on—I want you to know how much I appreciate and am amazed by the very existence of C3. My family has been really shocked by the response of the community. We struggle with the idea that in a community with hundreds of worshiping options, why people have to express such anger toward the very idea that there be an alternative for the rest of us. Peace.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained libelous or defamatory statements. Discussion Guidelines


Ian Lawton set the tone in his sermon at his installation ceremony in 2004, when he had a bishop's mitre placed on his head and said: "I find the Episcopal Church or Anglican Church just as hilarious as the Catholic Church, you'll be glad to know. In fact, I find all denominations equally hilarious in their structures and their hierarchies."


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained libelous or defamatory statements. Discussion Guidelines


Jesus stated: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Who can deny this truth when Christ Himself has said it?


I am disappointed that you felt that it was necessary to remove my previous posted opinion.


I think all churches are about money, power over people and community. If you must belong to a church, C3 seems to be a good one, since it does little harm.

I sympathize with SPEAKUP. HIstory repeats itself. What happened to her happened in Rhode Island and Philadelphia colonies before our country was founded. That lead to the first amendment of our constitution so the churches could be protected from one another. It prohibits the making of any law "respecting an establishment of religion", impeding the free exercise of religion and so on. Most religions at some time or other have persecuted non-believers. Christians seem to do that a lot. I hope SPEAKUP finda a community of caring individuals where she can find peace.


Do something spontaneous in public. This can help you overcome the "embarrassment factor," which can contribute a lot to social phobia. Levels of craziness may vary; one person may feel uncomfortable wearing a mini skirt while another will only feel uncomfortable when they are wearing a Martian suit. -FXDD


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.