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.