With hearts open to both God and neighbors, The Faith Studio helps people become more aware of growth that’s divinely incubated
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — On a podcast that dropped Sept. 8 and a follow-up set to be aired beginning Sept. 15, the Rev. Sara Hayden, host of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities’ “New Way” podcast, speaks with Gina Brown, curator of The Faith Studio. Listen to their initial conversation here and find the second episode beginning Thursday in the same spot.
Brown said she walked away from the church at a very young age. “The cheap way to say it is I didn’t believe in God. I was an atheist,” she told Hayden. “I now realize the issue is [to] be good with God, but not good with the structures that surround God. I’ve only recently figured this out.”
Decades after leaving the church, “I realize I’m not the only one … who found the church to be very narrow. The sound bite,” Brown said, “is The Faith Studio exists to hold the church door open just a little bit wider.”
The church “struggles with diversity of thought,” Brown said. “God is a God of diversity, and yet the church seems to have a problem with the differences and the diversity. I can’t believe with this huge, huge God that we’re all meant to see things the same way.”
Brown says “a lot” of the pushback she receives relates to the idea that God “is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. And that’s true! But when you say that you’re presupposing that you already knew the entirety of God in the first place.” Rather, “You only know what your worldview is of God — unless you’ve really worked to push outside of that.”
“For me, it’s like, ‘Well, let me hear my neighbor, because my neighbor is part of the Imago Dei of God.’ So, let me hear what my neighbor has to say and let me see: Does this connect to anything I understand already?” Brown asked. “Or let me just hold it on a shelf and wait, because I’ve got many more years in God to go.”
“Say someone tells you, ‘I’ve become God curious,’” Hayden asked Brown. “How do you engage that? What’s a healthy or liberating next step?”
“As I’m growing, I find The Faith Studio is probably developing into the thing I wish I’d had, where it wasn’t necessary to choose a camp,” Brown replied. “What The Faith Studio is trying to do — how I feel God is leading us — is to let a person show up how they feel they need to show up. Don’t impose any restrictions on them: you’re free to talk about God how you desire to talk about God. Ask the questions and it’ll be OK.”
Many who engage The Faith Studio “are finding they need more than their local assembly is providing them,” Brown said. “They don’t know what it is, but they want more. They want to talk about how their believing and their confessing is not working for them.”
However, there are people who say, “That’s not how Nana did it, and Nana was a great woman of faith,” Brown said. “New worshiping communities don’t have a lot of those elements and that’s OK.”
“What I find sometimes is that people are choosing to walk away altogether because the new thing seems really weird or demonic and the old thing is not working,” Brown said. “People are left in a liminal space, in a kind of limbo.”
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