Rev. Michaele LaVigne
People regularly ask me what’s been the best/ hardest/ most rewarding/ most surprising part about starting our church. And for every question the answer is the same: parish groups.
Parish Group: n. a gathering of people living near one another who care for one another, and work together to care for others around them
Before we started Midtown Church, I had this dream that we could be a church in which it was normal for us to gather in each others’ homes on a regular basis. I dreamed what it would be like if our congregation both found for ourselves and offered to others a “safe place to let their soul out.” I had visions of young and old, single and married, long-time disciple and the one just starting out, finding deep friendships and cheerleaders among one another.
I prayed and longed for an expression of Christian community in which we could love and encourage one another so well that every person was able to walk Jesus’ way more faithfully and boldly than they ever could alone. And to top it all off, I dreamed that our neighbors, our schools, our family members, and our city would benefit from these gatherings in our homes every week.
These dreams sound super spiritual, but I have a confession.
While I knew my dreams were in the realm of theological possibility, I did not expect them all to come true – or at least not right away. I mean, I knew that God had created the Church to do these kinds of things. And I knew that the Spirit of God could move in people to love one another like this. I just didn’t know if it would actually happen.
And yet, thanks be to God, I think it has.
Last September, parish groups formed and starting meeting, even before we launched the church. And in the year since then, I have witnessed the Spirit of God do miraculous things in and through those six groups scattered throughout Oklahoma City. People have grown to deeply love those who are quite different from themselves. Kids have been included and have found a place of belonging among caring adults. We have prayed with and cared for one another through surgeries, family deaths, weddings, births, and crises. And slowly but surely, those outside of our groups have received care through donations, service projects, and prayer.
Parish groups is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where we put into practice all the truth we celebrate each Sunday about being adopted into a good family, about being a rich and satisfied people who offer love, hope and reconciliation to others. It’s where the Holy Spirit teaches us what it really means to be good neighbors.
Which is why I can say that parish groups have been the best, the hardest, the most rewarding, and the most surprising part of starting this church. But really I shouldn’t be surprised. The best, hardest, and most rewarding part of all God’s work is always people. It’s in the nitty gritty of relationships that we see transformation happen, that we are called to depend on God the most, that we are challenged and stretched, that we find the deep sense of satisfaction and belonging that so often eludes us.
If you want to experience this same surprising, beautiful, and mysterious work of God that we have – come and join us! It’s really so much better than we can tell you. You just have to experience it for yourself.