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‘Forging Faith’ podcast tells the stories of people living at the intersection of faith and life

First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, Michigan, offers the first three of eight planned podcasts

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

“Forging Faith” is a new podcast series offered by First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, Michigan.

LOUISVILLE — The idea for the new podcast “Forging Faith” being offered by First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, Michigan, was hatched two years ago when a church member told his pastor, the Rev. Emma Nickel, that the church should try it.

“He was convinced I was a good listener, and it would be a good way to share who we are, and he was on the Evangelism Committee,” Nickel said on Wednesday, the day the first three of eight podcasts were released. “I have been really clear it’s the church’s podcast. A lot of church members were instrumental in the discernment and decision-making to create it.”

If the first three editions are any indication, the series is well worth a listen, whether one is a longtime church member, a newcomer to faith or a spiritual person who’s not religious. With production expertise from Michigan-based Community Marketing Revolution and through a grant from the Earla B. Smith Foundation, Nickel helps elicit stories of faith from church members and non-members, all people she knows. A woman named Melissa shares her heart-rending account of the steps that preceded adopting a baby. Sharon, an attorney, discusses her philosophy on life and her battle with cancer. Benny, who emigrated to the United States from Belgium, discusses his faith development even as he learns to live in a new country. Next week, pastor and author MaryAnn McKibben Dana will discuss depression and her new book “Hope: A User’s Manual.”

The conversations, Nickel says, show “why it’s OK to be angry with God and how to find joy and meaning even in the midst of difficult experiences. The stories remind listeners that the journey of faith rarely follows a straight path.”

Reactions to date as reported by Nickel have ranged from “This is great! We need to do these new kinds of media. What a great way to speak to the variety of generations and folks who are out there” to “What’s a podcast?” During the coffee hour following worship on Jan. 29, the congregation plans a launch party for “Forging Faith.” The show’s producer, Nickel and several guests will share their thoughts on the podcast and why it’s important to afford people the opportunity to share their stories.

In the final of the eight editions, Nickel turns the interviewing duties over to producer Seth Resler and serves as the guest. That edition is scheduled for release next month.

“I don’t think faith and life are necessarily separate,” Nickel tells Resler. “When faith matters is when we live it out in the world.” “Forging Faith” came about because “we wanted to offer a space to people who may have been hesitant about entering a church or have been part of a church in the past but aren’t quite sure what to think about church now.”

If attendance and membership in communities of faith are down, it’s often because “I don’t think we’ve met at the intersection of life and faith very well. It’s felt like two really separate things: You go to church and then you do your life for the rest of the week,” Nickel says. “My ministry, and the church’s ministry, is really focused on how to bring those two together and how to equip people for their regular lives in a way that shows how God matters and how God is active in the world. We try to do that through these stories.”

The Rev. Emma Nickel

People like to have “access to their faith life whenever they want, because they can worship whenever they want by tuning into a livestream,” Nickel notes.

“We’ve all been through challenges,” she says. “I was looking for people who could articulate how that stuff that they’ve been through was in conversation with their faith, and vice-versa. I also wanted compelling stories.”

The invitation given by “Forging Faith” is like the one Nickel offers just before Communion.

“I stand at the Table and I say, ‘This is not the Presbyterian Table, and it’s not for the people who have their faith all figured out. This is the Lord’s Table, and you’re invited here,” she tells Resler. “We have cradle Presbyterians and people who are new. People of faith can differ on many things when the agree on only a couple of things. Those things we agree on at this place is God loves everyone and everyone is welcome to explore their faith here.”

A bit of time has elapsed before people are asked to tell their stories on “Forging Faith.” Nickel says that “with a little distance, many of us find the bad stuff is just stuff. Being challenged in our faith, many people will find that’s how their faith grows a little bit. … People had some rough struggles, but as people of faith we listen to Scripture, and that’s how Bible stories go too.”

Nickel says she hopes listeners will “hear stories that resonate with regular everyday life. I hope they will think about faith in a way that makes them think it could be for them, especially if they haven’t thought that in a long time, or ever.”

“I hope their faith will be reaffirmed and there will be a reminder that sometimes faith will be hard,” Nickel says. “I hope people will come away with an openness to God and themselves to what they’re hearing and experiencing in their own life and that they might take some kind of action about that.”

“Forging Faith,” a podcast about how spirituality collides with life, is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Stitcher and on the website of First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, Michigan.

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