Building community through shared meals and friendship since 2017
In the Loving First Journey, we hear about loving people into community. But what does that really look like?
Hi, I’m Kelly Everling, and I’ve been serving as a pastor here in the Florida Conference since early 2019. But there is a mini congregation I’ve been serving since long before my first appointment.
The plan was simple. Let’s meet up in a local brewery and engage scripture. We started with a few core people and planned to meet once a week in order to build community, study the Word, and have a beer or two. This was back in late 2017.
And boy, did things change.
Over the next year, we would find ourselves relocating three times, first to a barbecue restaurant we would grow out of, a grocery store, and then to a local custard shop. We gained new people, we lost some as a result of the change in times and locale, and we just kept chugging.
Enter “the core.”
As we kept shifting and living into what the needs were for our situation at the time, we found that there were a few people who came in and stayed through it all. No matter how plans changed, they rode the wave with us and eventually stepped up in leadership and coordinating what this motley crew of misfits would look like.
Now, there is no fancy name for what we do. We simply refer to ourselves as the Thursday Night group. There is no set location, but we generally shift locations each week depending on who can host. The heart of this group, however, is largely unchanged. We still meet once a week around a table. We still share the highs and lows of what we are experiencing in life, and we still love each other deeply.
Even as recently as a month ago, we are still finding ourselves loving and learning alongside new people, and currently have a steady group of 10 people who come together regularly. We have seen so many ups and downs over the years. From celebrating weddings and first (and second!) babies, to loving alongside health crises and loss of loved ones. We have supported one another through job changes, new homes, and just about everything you could think of. And all the while, we are guided by the mischief that is the Holy Spirit.
In the book of Acts, the early church is seen moving from one central location, the Tabernacle, to the tents and homes of those who have community with one another. Jesus himself says “The foxes have holes to live in, and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.” (Matthew 8:20). This is what our group is like. Just as life shifts and changes at a moment’s notice, so do we.
There doesn’t have to be a well-crafted, alliterative name to do this work. There doesn’t have to be a set location. All we need is a group of people who want to love one another and grow in our life’s journeys. The Spirit will do the rest.