So don’t yield to the fortunes you sometimes see as fate,
they may have a new perspective on a different day.
And if you don’t give up and don’t give in it may just be OK.
– The Living Years, by Mike & The Mechanics
The Sunday Series (48): A Reason To Believe
Sometimes all it takes is a little faith.
For Alex and Raquel Penduck it began with conversations outside on the deck of their condominium. The talks were about what they could see all around them. People in their 20’s and 30’s getting married, getting the house, getting the cars, having the kids, going to work, coming home, the same routine over and over with no real connection to community or a place of faith. And when problems or issues would arise, there was no place to turn to work it out. Alex and Raquel knew these people, just like themselves, needed direction, a place to go, a way to connect, a reason to believe.
The couple knows from faith and the challenges and disconnect others in their age group feel about it. Alex, originally from England and Raquel, born in Nicaragua, met in the summer of 2000 in Springfield, Missouri. They eventually married a few years later and moved to Maryland. For a while they worked on the staff of a fairly large church, a church struggling to survive. Alex says the challenges for that church, as well as others, are many. “What we had seen and observed”, says Alex, ” a lot of people thought the church was an ugly place, they really didn’t care about them, we started hearing that a lot. People had been hurt by the church, they had been taken advantage of, people said things in trust and confidence and that trust had been broken. They felt the church used them for what it could get out of them and not give anything back. And as we looked around we noticed a void, where were all the twenty and thirty some-things, the people just like us? ”
Alex and Raquel believed that those just like them, just starting out, raising young families, dealing with family and marital issues needed hope and faith and a connection to church and community, but they had nowhere to turn and no place to go.
For the young couple the conversations outside their condo in 2009 were all about these issues and how they could find a way to fill the void. How they could develop a sense of community, a safe haven, a place where these young families wanted to go to gather, talk through the issues, reconnect with their faith and to find hope? The young couple soon brought their friends into the conversation and the dream started to take shape. There were only eight of them, talking in the living room of a friend’s home – brainstorming and dreaming about how they could create a place where people would want to come – what a church might look like – what issues were most important. How could they help to heal broken marriages, help others to understand who God truly is, understand faith and provide a place where people could experience love. How could they take what they saw as “surface relationships” to a deeper place where you could trust and really love other people.
On September 19th, 2010 Generation Church became a reality. Alex became pastor and Raquel director for children at the church. What started with eight people gathered together in a living room, is now about 130 people strong and growing. And lives are being changed. Alex says, “we always said the church was not about people coming to a service on Sunday morning, but about building relationships with those people. The whole point about what we believe is that the church is not about creating a big building where people come and sing a few songs and listen to a sermon. We believe church is a community of people who come together and are like-minded and want to do things together, eat together, visit each other’s homes and have fun together. It’s more about community than church services.
Alex tells the story of the early days of the church. “There was a couple who did pretty well for themselves. In their mid-to-late 20’s, they had kids, a single family home, but they were searching for things in life. They had issues with their family and their marriage. What we did was reach out to them. We held a root-beer kegger. We got a log cabin in the woods, invited a bunch of people and played root-beer pong, volleyball, other games, and just had a great time, trying to help them make a connection.” It’s not as if a keg party was going to solve all the issues, but it’s a start. A way for this couple to have fun, to feel a connection with others like themselves, to feel a sense of community and find faith in life and provide a foundation for them to tackle their tougher issues. Connections like these are what the church tries to develop among all its members – fun and faith.
And it goes well beyond the church and its members. Alex says when the church started one of the things they wanted to do was to reach out and help people who aren’t part of the church. Just a few years ago Generation Church partnered with the Boys and Girls Club in Bel Air and provided winter coats and a movie for about 75 kids. “When they first walked in the kids were hugging us and saying they had never been to the movies before”, says Alex. I was amazed. These kids, 10, 11, 12 years of age who had never been to a movie theater. Some of them wore their coats during the entire movie. They were just so thrilled to have them and for the whole experience. That’s why it’s not just about Sunday morning and services, it’s about helping these people and that if we weren’t here, they wouldn’t have these things, or this experience.”
One of the complaints about churches in general, which Alex and the founding members heard time and time again – the church just wants my money. Two things the group decided to do to bring legitimacy to their efforts with Generation Church: number one – there is no donation plate passed during services. If members want to give there is a basket in the back where they can donate. The second thing – there is no full-time staff, meaning no one earns a salary. This is a volunteer church. Alex earns his living helping others with insurance at WSMT in Bel Air, Maryland and Raquel works as an Hispanic translator and secretary at Wolfe Street Academy in Baltimore.
The outreach of Generation Church even extends to the workplace. Just last week the church partnered with Raquel’s school for a “free sale”. People from Generation Church donated items and families of the children who attended the school and others in the community could then come and take what they wanted. Members of Generation Church and the surrounding community donated three pick-up trucks full of “stuff” and twelve volunteers from the church donated their time to sort and distribute and then help pack everything up.
Alex says this an example of things they do on a regular basis. Just this past summer Generation Church sponsored a trip to Raquel’s native land of Nicaragua and the church paid for children from a very poor town to attend camp. It was life affirming for so many.
On November 20th, Generation Church is sending 50 Thanksgiving Meals to two different elementary schools so the families can enjoy a holiday meal. And it is all made possible because of donations from church members.
Generation Church wants to reach people of all generations. Alex says, “we define generation as any person living at this time regardless of race, religion, or economic status. We want to help little kids, middle age, seniors, we think a healthy community is where all ages are involved, just like a family which is made up of multiple generations. And it’s OK if this is not for everyone. “We don’t expect everyone to like our church”, Alex says. “They can come to a service and decide it’s not for them and that’s OK with us. We are about helping people to find faith and hope in life and if we can be part of that journey, that is fantastic.”
And Alex says there are two messages he wants to share: “The first is that for me as pastor, I believe that God has a plan for everyone’s life and His plan is better than our plan. It’s what I believe for my life. If not, I would just work and come home and not care. If people would just believe they would be amazed.” But he says there is a second, even more universal message for those who still might not agree with him and the message is this – “There is meaning and purpose to your life. There is hope for tomorrow and there is something you can follow and dream after, so don’t give up.”
Every generation blames the one before,
and all of their frustrations come beating on your door.
– The Living Years, Mike & the Mechanics
Not at this door. The door is wide open for you. Generation Church wants to show you the way – sometimes all you need is a reason to believe.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
(Generation Church is located at 2239 Old Emmorton Road, Bel Air, MD. Services are held each Sunday at 10am, but community events and outreach go on all the time. Visit http://www.thisgen.com/ or the Generation Church Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/thisgen)
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker
The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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