Interviewer: Welcome, Maria! This is the first time I have done one of these interviews in the nursery! So, this is Nora. She’s your youngest, right?
Maria: Yes, she’s almost two.
Interviewer: Tell me about the rest of your family.
Maria: I am married to Matt. He is a Canadian, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. We met in Vancouver while we were both studying at Regent College. We married here at COS in 2010, then we lived in Vancouver for 4 more years. In 2014 we moved here with our oldest daughter, Hannah. She is seven and is in first grade at Trinitas Classical School. Peter is four, he is a preschooler this year.
Interviewer: Nora seems very peaceful, quietly eating cheerios.
Maria: Yes, she is very peaceful. She is an easy kid so far!
Interviewer: Can you tell me a bit about your new position here?
Maria: Sure! I am doing only a fraction of what Chris Klein did before me. There are two main parts to my job—parish care and households. I am working to coordinate parish care with the Elders and Deacons and the Parish Care Partners. I am running the monthly Parish Care meetings, and I am also a point person to pass along information either to Karen and Andrew or the parish care teams. I am also working to care for households. I look forward to connecting with all the household coordinators and leaders, finding out who is still meeting, and finding out who is open to welcoming new people into their household groups. We always have people who are looking for a household group.
Interviewer: So, you will be forming some new households.
Maria: Yes – we will be incubating new households after the new members class later this spring, so if anyone wants to join a household, they ought to let me know. Or let Nancy Remelts know—she, as always, is a huge help in this work. She is a key person to getting all this done, as I am only working 10 hours per week.
Interviewer: Then it really is part time.
Maria: It really is.
Interviewer: And it’s not going to be one of those jobs that’s part-time pay for full-time work, is it?
Maria: No, I’m not able to be here more than 10 hours a week during this busy season of life!
Interviewer: You are a child of this congregation, right?
Maria: I was baptized by Jack Roeda back in 1984 when COS was still meeting in the Seymour Christian School gym. I remember the groundbreaking ceremony at this site when I was a kid. Almost my entire church life has been here, except for when I was in Vancouver. I was baptized here, did profession of faith here. I was married here. Two of our children were baptized here. It’s been such a good church home for me and now for my family. When we came back, there was no question that this is where we wanted to be. Like a lot of people, I’ve been a volunteer for lots of different things here, but I never imagined myself having a job here. I am thrilled to be working here now!
Interviewer: What are some of the things you volunteered for?
Maria: Children’s worship has always been one of my favorite things to be part of. I taught ESL for a one semester, which I found to be more of a challenge. I’ve enjoyed reading scripture and leading liturgy. And I had a lot of fun being part of the Pastoral Search Committee. I’ve done a lot of church work over the years as a volunteer, but this is my first job in a church.
Interviewer: So you went to seminary at Regent College–Why Regent?
Maria: I wanted to get away for a while. I wanted to experience life somewhere else. My undergrad was at Calvin—I was an English major, so for grad school I wanted to go somewhere else. I had always heard of Regent and wanted to go there.
Interviewer: What did you study there?
Maria: Everything! I have an MDiv from there, so I studied Greek and Hebrew, pastoral care, pastoral ethics, worship, preaching, all the usual MDiv things. I am on track for ordination. I just jumped back into the CRC Candidacy Process. I started it years ago when I spent one semester at Calvin Seminary for EPMC—the CRC course for people whose MDivs are from somewhere else—it helps us to get our theological ducks in a row. I put all of that on hold in order to be home with our kids, but now I am getting back into the process, preparing for ordination. And I am looking forward what may be next.
Interviewer: Are there any special goals you would like to reach while you have this position?
Maria: Well, I’m very interested in creation care, and the potential ways that we can invite people into a fuller awareness of who the Creator is, and deeper knowledge of the creation. I think there is a big place for the church to get involved with that. I know the creation care team here at COS is doing a lot of good, and I am so thankful for that. I’m also interested in seeing that connected to hospitality and community. I want to help the church to continue to practice and experience that. We experienced a lot of that in Vancouver—intentional Christian community and hospitality.
Interviewer: Tell me more about what they did.
Maria: Matt and I lived in a few different community houses while we were there, first separately before we were married and together in one after we were married. It was a challenge, but we learned a lot. We had professors who lived on a farm out on an island and held classes out there. Those were some of the most educational and life-giving experiences that I have been a part of. I’d like to try to bring a bit of that here.
Interviewer: How will you do that?
Maria: That’s a great question—and one that’s not easy to answer. I have become convinced that restorative circles are a very good tool to use for community building. They are a good way to organize our time together so that we are all listening to each other and hearing from everybody. It’s a way to get some people to learn to listen. People who don’t usually talk feel freer to talk. For people who don’t listen, it’s a way to learn that. We’ve been using circles in our household group. Someone will come with a few questions and we just go around and each answer the questions. And you can always pass, so no one is forced to talk. For instance, one question I asked recently at a parish care meeting was, “Talk briefly about a time that you received care.” Everyone went around and told a story. It’s a good way to get to know each other and remember why we are doing what we are doing.
Interviewer: Do you hope to use those tools with households here?
Maria: Well, of course I would never impose a structure on a household at COS (I’ve been told this would not go over well!) but I would offer this as a possible model for community building. It’s also a way to even the ground if there are new members–everyone has a turn to be heard. We may get leaders together to touch base about what is working well, and what is not. I have heard COS described as a “bubble-up” church which is fine enough for some people, but new people often don’t know how to get involved, so we need to make some structures where it is easy and hospitable for new people to get involved.
Interviewer: Are there other thoughts you’d like to share with the congregation?
Maria: Well, one thing I have been thinking about is the difference between pastoral care as it comes from the pastors and being a congregation of care; being a place where people care for each other.
Interviewer: Good point! In my experience COS does fairly well at this.
Maria: I hope so. One of the challenges is that we often organize ourselves by demographics. My household is all parents with young children. So, we are all tired. We are all moderately stressed out.
Interviewer: That’s called an affinity group, right?
Maria: Yes, which is important to have–but it would also be lovely to have a household where retired couples whose children have already left or who don’t have children say, “Just come. Don’t worry about bringing anything. And we will sit with your kids and let you rest for a bit.” That would be a gift too.
Interviewer: There is something to be said for having a group of people together who are all facing the same life struggles and challenges.
Maria: Totally! We have chosen that and have built our group around that. It’s a real challenge, though, deciding what are the priorities as we organize households. I certainly haven’t gotten my head all the way round it yet. I am open to insights from the congregation.
Interviewer: Thank you, Maria. I’m sure we are all much looking forwards to enjoying your contribution here over the next several months!
This interview was conducted by Jim Bradley on Tuesday, February 20, 2020.