Josh PerryBishop John Shelby Spong?is who ? or what ? first brought me to First United.? Not literally. I mean, he didn?t pick me up in a Prius and bring me. But it was an announcement in the local paper promoting a visit to First United by Bishop Spong that first caught my attention and prompted me to say to my wife, ?Let?s go hear John Shelby Spong and check-out First United UCC.? Shelli and I had attended a UCC congregation back in Nashville, TN for many years, but since moving to Bloomington we had not yet settled into a church home. However, the chance to hear Spong ? someone who we had both studied in graduate school ? was a treat too good to pass up, and the bonus was getting to check-out First United ? a place I figured was probably pretty great if they were making the effort to bring in Spong to give a talk. I mean Spong is a guy who is all about trying to make the teachings of Jesus and mission of the Church relevant and life-affirming for the 21st?century world. By extension, I figured First United had to be a good place for a guy like me who was interested in a faith community that was unafraid to ask challenging questions.

As much as I can recall, the sermon by Spong was thought-provoking and inspiring and mostly about how to be love in the world, which is how I experience the sermons from Caela and Jack and the general vibe at First United ? on Sunday mornings, in our Covenant Group, and during the various church activities we participate in during the year. That?s why Shelli and the kids and I keep on showing up. Yeah, we have three young kids – Ivy (9), Eden (7) & Oakley (almost 5) ? and it is important to us that they (and we) have a connection to a place that is trying to make the world a little bit better; a place where the values of community-connectedness, service to others, acceptance of difference, compassion for all, and peace are given the nudges they need to grow in our lives.