How does a person who relocates to a new city pick a Church? Usually it has to do with their faith denomination, but also proximity.
When I arrived in Milwaukee after living abroad for a decade and being displaced by the Tōhoku Earthquake in Japan, I followed my usual habit to familiarize myself with a new city. I mapped all the churches within a convenient radius of where I was staying, then began researching them.
A website never tells the whole story of a Church, and most homepages are stuck in a 1996 Web 1.0 design, but it is a place to start for basic information. None of the four nearby Churches were my denomination of choice, but I was willing to put that aside. After years of journey I needed fellowship, and I relied on the Lord to guide me in the search.
And guide He did. Through a series of seemingly random events, each disconnected yet combined to form an arrow that pointed in one direction. I looked at my list of four Churches and from these experiences, I decided to visit Summerfield UMC first.
As it turned out, I never bothered to visit the other three Churches to compare what they offered. I had found my new spiritual home. Of course, I was not aware of that discovery upon my first visit. And to be fair, I felt a true evaluation would take a handful of visits or I would just jump from Church to Church based on the mood of the day.
I looked at the Summerfield architecture and wondered if the message inside was as old and structured as the external appearance. All four Churches in the area were of similar age and cathedral-like in appearance. Over the following weeks I returned and began to become more involved at Summerfield, which had never been my original intention. I saw how it – the experience – fulfilled all the things the Lord was trying to teach me. And thankfully I was receptive to His message.
Simply put, Summerfield is a place of healing.
As Christians, we are all sinners and broken in some way or another. At Summerfield, I felt a great deal of acceptance and the lack of pressure to conform to any particular dogma. I was welcomed for who I was, and given time to explore and find my way. Living overseas for so long, I had been happy to be free of the baggage so many Churches and denominations in America carry. I did not look forward to a return to that stifiling environment, where legalism could cloud spiritual truths. I needed a place where I could simply be a Christian and praise my Savior.
Summerfield is that place, where I can continue to have a relationship with my Lord, and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Is Summerfield a perfect place? Can any institution of Man be such?
Summerfield is not made of the brick and mortar that holds the structure together, but the hearts and faith of the Congregation that forms a strong fellowship. Arriving at the red doors has been a true gift to my life, and helped me to fulfill many personal dreams. I even consider unfortunate experiences to be a blessing, because I learned so much as a result in an environment where I could put that knowledge to use.
Summerfield has let me live my faith and prove myself by example. I know that everyone is at a different place in their life, and perhaps even a year ago I would not have appreciated what Summerfield had to offer. Maybe even Summerfield itself was not ready for me a year ago.
But it is my wish to share the magic and glory of Summerfield with others out there who are drifting and need a place to land. I never intended to stay at Summerfield, let alone Milwaukee. But the days and weeks have now passed half a year. In all my personal struggles in that time, I cannot imagine the experience without Summerfield.
It may seem like I refer to Summerfield as an abstract place, because in many ways it is. The structure does exist, but everyone takes differently from what it contains within. Summerfield is the beating hearts of its Congregation and its faith and love towards God and our Christian family on Earth. I understand denominational titles are very important to many people. But Summerfield is not a cookie cutter Methodist congregation. Most people who attend come from various backgrounds, and bring a great deal of acceptance with an open mind.
Summerfield is not a building but a collection of voices that combine to express the message of the Holy Spirit, each fragment is part of a larger whole and I am grateful to be listening. It is my sincerest hope that those in the local community can come and give Summerfield a chance, give themselves a chance to experience an amazing blessing. Even if Summerfield is not the place for you, I challenge you by asking why? Return again to find the answer. Not everything in life is easy, if it were then everyone could be a doctor or pilot. It is the being hard that make many things great.
Church is not a passive place, it will only give you what you put into it. So for anyone who is serious about their faith, determined to grow, in need of a place to heal, the doors and hearts of Summerfield are open to you.