I Believe in the Catholic Church and its Faith, by Danilo Poggio

Good Shepherd, which is located in Colleyville, is a Catholic church whose members are very respectful and participative. The sense of profound fraternal community that I found there really catches me. In Sao Paulo, where I used to live, it is difficult to find a church with such a good environment. I believe that it happens because of the conservative way that priests manage the churches in my hometown.

I was looking for something more attractive and now I am really excited about the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. Of course it is not about the church in general, but the important things that happen during the mass. There are three priests taking turns during the mass that results in a dynamic ceremony. I know that the Catholic faith is much more than the mass; however, the mass is the church`s front door which must be attractive to call lambs. People sitting in comfortable benches are not just spectators; instead, they are called to participate in the mass during many occasions. A good example is the Washing of the Feet, in which the whole audience is invited to wash each other`s feet. At the first time, I was afraid of going there to wash other`s feet, but a disabled man sitting in front of me washed a woman`s feet. Priest Jonathan, the priest in charge that day, said, “Come and live the experience that Jesus lived.” I don`t know how long I took to decide to go there, but I am really glad that I took the opportunity of living such an intense experience.

People dealing with lack of faith should try to find a blessed community like I have found. I am happy about discovering this beloved community because it brought me back to my faith, which I had lost.

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Danilo is an international student from Brazil enrolled in the TCU Intensive English Program.

I Believe in Ordained Ministers, by Rev. Jill Sullins

You there.  Yes, you.  I know that look in your eyes.  The wondering if what you’ll say on Sunday will make a difference.  I know that fatigue and I know that….”this text again?  There can’t be anything more I can say about this.”  I know the energy it takes to create something new from something old and listen to the same tired argument for months on end.  I know that feeling of uncertainty and if your leadership is absolutely taking your church to where it needs to go.  Yes, You.  I know you.  And I believe in you.

I believe in ordained ministers who tirelessly seek ways of preaching in order to speak justice in a way that is kind, but challenging.  I believe in ordained ministers who take that call in the middle of the night even though every bone in their body says to ignore the call.  I believe in ordained ministers who carefully let their best selves be invaded by the Holy of Holies.  I believe in ordained ministers who speak truth into a world when everything seems uncertain.  I believe in ordained ministers.   I believe that the words you say do matter and do make a difference.  I believe that taking that call has shown someone a love beyond boundaries and limits, a love that mimics the Christ on the mountaintop who came away from his prayer in order to heal and to listen.  I believe that what you do speaks to justice even if it felt like a watered down point of view.  I believe that who you are is exactly why God called you to ministry.

I believe in ordained ministers.  I believe you are God’s gift to the Church and that gift is opened every day with new exciting opportunities to be who you are and exactly how God made you.  I believe you are called.  I have watched you reach into the depths of your hearts in order to make strong decisions for your congregations.  I have watched you open your eyes to the pain in your neighborhoods and empower your congregations to heal that pain.  I believe in your call even when you do not.  I believe your call has led you at times into depression, and at times into amazing joy.  I believe in ordained ministers because I have followed your examples of love and life.  I have followed your footsteps in maintaining your integrity while walking the tightrope of peace.

I believe in ordained ministers because of the strength you’ve shown in faith.  Your passion to share the Good News and to do it at all costs.  I believe in ordained ministers because when hands were laid on you, you did not run, but instead you cried knowing that God saw you for who you are and designed your life to do important, sacred things.  I believe in ordained ministers because of the numerous camps you’ve counseled and directed empowering youth and children to seek a greater faith.  I believe in ordained ministers because of the ways you’ve served regions and greater Church.  I believe in ordained ministers because you reach beyond the tradition and found a whole new world opening up in which God is doing great things.  I believe in ordained ministers because you’ve been my friends, you’ve been my mentors, and you’ve been a challenging voice when the road has become too rough.

I believe in ordained ministers because I’ve watched you love recklessly, extended grace boundlessly, and healed the brokenness around you.

So YOU…..I believe in you.  God believes in you.  The Church believes in you.  You are loved, there is hope, and I believe in you because you are exactly you.

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GA TIB BOOK Jill SullinsRev. Jill Sullins serves as senior minister at South Summit Christian Church.  She joined South Summit CC on December 1, 2013 with her husband, Eric and daughter, Maddie.  She previously served congregations in San Marcos, Texas, Independence, Missouri, Fort Worth, Texas and Grand Prairie, Texas. She earned her bachelors’ degree in Religious Studies and a minor in music at Texas Christian University and her Master of Divinity degree at Brite Divinity School. Jill finds God in lots of everyday things. She spends her free time playing volleyball, punching numbers on a remote control, conquering the world of tutu making and other nonsense crafts, cooking, and of course being a mom and a wife.

I Believe in My Sister’s Jesus, by Rev. Ryan Motter

Just one year before “The Facebook” came to TCU, many students used an online service called “Xanga,” (pronounced Zayn-gah with an inflection of irony and a hint of regret).  Xanga was an “open journal” blogging site, a place where millennial angst could spill out for all to see.  As a Freshman living in Clark Hall, I used Xanga for two reasons: first, so that my mom and sister could have print evidence that I was still alive and, second, so that I did not have to confront social anxiety and make new friends.

Xanga became the space where new ideas related to my major, Religion, played out.  Just a month into school, I wrote: “How do we know that we’re Christian?”  Mid-semester, the words were different:  “What if God is fallible?”  Then, at the start of my second semester, it was just flat out: “I don’t believe in Jesus.  Got no issues with God.  Just Jesus.”

That last one sent my sister, Kate, into a tailspin.  She lashed back with comments about how she didn’t know me and that Jesus believed in me even if I didn’t believe in him.  Back home, the church that I had grown up in, the same one in which Kate was still growing, had descended into terrible conflict.  What had been a source of faithful strength in my youth became, in Kate’s youth, a place where followers of Jesus acted as embittered hypocrites.  For her brother to move from “church camp all-star” to “deserter of the faith,” was betrayal to Kate.  When I stopped attending church at the end of my first semester, that betrayal became real to both of us.

After that, my sister and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on much about Jesus.  As our home church disintegrated, Kate became involved in Young Life.  The Jesus she came to know became vastly different than the Jesus, historical, theological and ethical, that I was coming to know through my coursework.

Slowly, Jesus and I found each other again, for the first time.  In my Junior year, I returned to a church because there was a hole in my heart that nothing else could fill.  I heard sermons from a minister who used both her bible and her brain, and she helped me to know an intimately personal Jesus who had intellectual integrity.  I sang in a church choir that was forgiving of my angst and gentle with my spirit.  My coursework in Religion encouraged me to be less critical and more generous, both to the material and myself.

In the summer after graduating from TCU, Jesus brought Kate and me back together.  She and I began to talk about this man who we had come to know separately.  She practiced the hospitality of Jesus that her Young Life groups instilled in her, and I found the vulnerability of Jesus I’d learned through doubt and grace.

Together we discovered that we believed in each other’s Jesus.  We still do.

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GA TIB BOOK Ryan MotterRev. Ryan Motter, ’07, is a minister at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Smithville, Missouri.  After his time at TCU, Ryan earned his Master of Divinity degree at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and was ordained to Christian Ministry.  He and his wife Rev. Suzanne Kerr Motter, ’00, MDIV ‘04, are expecting their first child, a baby girl, in November.  They can’t wait for her to meet their fur child Jeff, a female Yellow Lab Mix named in honor of two of Ryan’s TCU roommates. 

I Believe in Youth Ministry, by Rev. Aaron Todd

When I was preparing to graduate from Brite Divinity School during the Summer of 2009 I found myself sensing a nudging to explore other areas of congregational ministry outside of the field of Youth Ministry.  This was a scary proposition as I was, at the time, serving an amazing congregation with an even-more-amazing youth group.  But as my time at Brite was coming to a close, I began to sense that it was time to “spread my wings” and go on to other “bigger” things.

Five years later, after two stints as a senior pastor, I made the decision to return to my “roots” and re-engage the crazy, holy madness that is Youth Ministry.  For myself, for my spirit, for my ministry, and for God’s Kingdom, this was the best decision I have ever made.  Youth Ministry is what I am called to do, and for me there is no more sacred work than to journey alongside teenagers during those crazy, unpredictable, beautiful years of middle school and high school.

This is where I belong.  And the truth is, of course, that I have always known this to be true.

My initial call to ministry came while on a mission trip during my junior year of high school.  It was a call that was reaffirmed while serving as a counselor during a week of church camp.

The most holy communion experience I have ever participated in occurred on the floor at 7:00am with elements of orange juice and glazed donuts.

The most in depth theological discussions I have ever witnessed have sprung out of seemingly innocuous comments uttered during youth group gatherings.

I believe in Youth Ministry.  I believe in late nights and early mornings.  I believe in silliness and play. I believe in laughter and spontaneity. I believe in that a trip to the coffee shop can yield the same holiness as a trip to the monastery. I believe in messy rooms.  I believe in intentional prayer.   I believe in the sacred art of holy listening. I believe in silence.  I believe in creating.  I believe in teaching and in learning. I believe in sacred community. I believe in relationships.

When I say I believe in Youth Ministry what I am saying is that I believe in the youth of our churches and our communities.  I believe that our youth are not only capable of leading the Church, but they are capable to transforming the world (and are, in fact, already doing both these things).  However, our young people will only live into the fullness of who they were created to be if they are made a priority by the Church and it’s leadership. The boundless potential that abides within the souls of the youth whom I am blessed to serve is what helps to stir my spirit and what drives me forward in ministry.

My Youth inspire me to be a better pastor, Christian, and human being and for the gift of being permitted to journey alongside them I will be forever grateful.

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GA TIB BOOK Aaron ToddRev. Aaron Todd serves as the Minister for Education at First Christian Church-Midwest City, OK . He is married to Debra, who is also a Disciples pastor, and together they have a 3 year old son named Zach and a precious baby boy named Josh. In addition to their human children, they have a 5 year old dog named Amos (named after the prophet).

I Believe in the Church, by Rev. David Mallory

With a trumpet of shock in her voice, the young woman said to me, “these people don’t even know me and yet they are constantly asking what they can do to help.” Her and her husband had been casually visiting the congregation for several months when he was severely injured in a boating accident. Members of the church had been showering them with food, cards, companionship, prayers and love. She was dumbfounded by the response.

Over the last number of decades, a great deal of criticism has been pointed at the church for being archaic and out-of-touch. Much of this is deserved. However, even with her many shortcomings, I still believe in the church.

Human beings are created as social creatures. Particularly in times of hardship and struggle, we cope most effectively when we are rooted in safe and meaningful relationships. Yet there are so few arenas in which these healthy relationships can be nurtured. Schools are often fractured  by bullying and social ladders. Corporate America is more concerned with profits than with people. Even local neighborhoods are often fenced by mistrust. In a world in which rampant individualism and crippling isolation are commonplace, the church is a sanctuary where all of God’s creatures can gather at the same table. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free. The leopard can lie with the goat and the cow can feed with the bear. With all of her faults and failures, the church is still one of the few venues in which our commonness as the beloved children of God is celebrated. For this reason, I believe in the church.

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GA TIB BOOK David MalloryDavid Mallory is the Senior Minister of Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to that, he was the Senior Minister at the First Christian Church of Albany, Texas. A second career minister, he graduated from Brite Divinity School in 2000. He is the husband of Amy, father of Robert and Stacey and soon to be a granddad. Wow, he’s old!

I Believe in the Church, by Rev. Allison Lanza

Dear Church,

I was watching you this weekend. It was early on a Saturday morning. 20 of you were holding hands in a circle in that old fellowship hall.  I noticed how diverse you were.  In that circle some of you were children, some young adults, some weathered and wise from many years on this planet.  Some of you were black and some white. Some had large houses, some 1 room apartments, and some of you had nowhere to call home.  Some of you have been going to church since you were babies and others walked into this strange community just a few months ago. In that circle you were CEO’s, janitors, marathon runners, chemo patients, addicts, granddads and moms.  I saw how different you were, but I don’t think you noticed the differences.  I could see in the way you treated each other that you saw the other faces around the circle just as fellow church members, as equal, beloved children of God.  Standing there you prayed that God’s love might be known through bread and smiles.  Then you went outside.  You spent the morning giving out free fresh produce to your neighbors.  When folks asked if they qualified for food, you told them, “yes, this is for everyone!”  When they asked how much food they could take, you said, “as much as you want, take some for your friends and neighbors too.”

Church, this weekend, I saw you at your best.  You were following in Jesus’ footsteps as you gave food to the hungry and loved your neighbors as yourself, no questions asked.  You trusted in God’s abundance and generosity instead of trusting in your own fear that there might not be enough.  It was beautiful.

A lot of folks are losing faith in you church.  I see where they are coming from.  Too often you have chosen shame instead of grace.  You have closed your doors and told some members of the body of Christ that they are not welcome because of who they love, or because they ask questions, or because they do not believe exactly the same way that you do. You have tried too hard to be cool and powerful and in doing so you have sometimes left Jesus and his teachings behind. You have gotten stuck in your ways, unwilling to change.

In spite of this, I still believe in you.  I don’t believe this is who you really are.  I just think this is what you act like when you are afraid.  You are better than this.  Church, I believe in you because I have seen you when you are at your very best.

I have seen you baptize a child and promise to raise them in God’s love, and then I have watched you follow through.  I have seen you bring casseroles to a devastated family and read psalms beside the hospital bed.  I have seen you show up when the tornado hits and stay long after the news cameras have left.  I have watched you help teenagers hear God’s still, small voice and I have seen you whisper to the outcast, “you are God’s beloved child and you are welcome here.”

I have heard your prophetic voice crying for justice, your hymns sung out in praise and your quiet prayers whispered into the silence.  I have watched as you fed the hungry, visited the imprisoned, healed the sick, and let the oppressed go free.  I watched you knock down the walls that divide us and invite us into one community as sisters and brothers in God.  When the world says, be afraid, I have heard you whisper, love.  I have seen you proclaim that love has overcome hate, life has overcome death, and that hope will have the final say. I have watched you live as if you really believe, in spite of the evidence otherwise, that this might be true.

I believe in you church.

I believe in you because you raised me.  I have seen you come alive.

So, let go of your fear.  Be God’s church in this world again.

We need you.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

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GA TIB BOOK Allison LanzaRev. Allison Lanza serves as an Associate Chaplain at TCU.  Prior to this she served at Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh NC.  She graduated from Trinity University and Vanderbilt Divinity School.  She is a part of Ridglea Christian Church in Fort Worth.  The daughter of a TCU professor, she has been a horned frog since birth!

I Believe in the Open Table, by Mary Katherine Spalding

My story starts here.  I was born and raised in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  In the Disciples Church, we practice what has become known as the “Open Table.”  In our weekly worship services, the Open Table refers to the communion table where all are welcome to take part in the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist.  Pastor Rob Bell, though not a Disciples minister, describes this practice best stating, “The Eucharist is about setting the table for the whole world.”  In a broader, long-term concept, the Open Table is the invitation for the world to join in community and conversation.

I worked at a church in Waco, Texas.  During communion each week, the senior minister would say, “This table belongs to our Lord, not our church. All are welcome.”  I loved this reminder each week.  When I was growing up I went to a church where you were not allowed to take communion until you had been baptized.  Adults passed the trays and skipped right over the children in the row.  When I was finally baptized on Palm Sunday in 2002, I felt like I had joined an exclusive club.  The following Sunday, Easter Sunday 2002, I sat with the rest of my faith development class as we awaited our turn to walk to the front of the congregation and take our first communion as “true believers.”

As I got older, I began to have frustrations with communion only being offered to those who had been baptized, as though children who confessed through their actions each week that they believed in the love and power of Christ were not welcome to partake in the feast.  Today, I believe people of all faiths and all ages are welcome to the table.  The table isn’t about being a part of a special club or sitting at the grown up table.  The table is about embracing each and every child of God.  The table is about inviting the whole world to feel the love of Christ.

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GA TIB BOOK Mary Katherine SpaldingMary Katherine Spalding is a 2013 graduate of Texas Christian University with a BA in Religion and a minor in Sociology. Currently, she is residing in Northern Germany where she is working as an Au Pair. In her spare time she enjoys reading theology, playing tennis, and singing.

I Believe in Church Camp, by Rev. Tiff Williams

She was angry, hostile and sometimes violent.  She was prone to verbal and physical outbursts.  By the end of that week of church camp, we adults were running out of ways to help her and to keep the other campers from lashing out at her.  We were afraid the bullying was going to start.  Then she signed up for the talent show.  She got up to sing and said, “I’d like to dedicate this song to my dad who died.”  Suddenly it clicked.  The anger and the frustration all made sense.  She was grieving and we didn’t know it.  The beginning of our week might have been so different if we had only known what was wrong and how to help.

She got up and sang the most sincere and absolutely worst solo I have ever heard.  It was off key, off pitch, off rhythm, off everything.  When she stopped, she just stood there at the front of the room with her head down and her eyes closed, clutching the microphone for dear life.  Middle school kids can be cruel, but they weren’t that night.  That night they gave that little girl who had hurled insults at them all week a thunderous standing ovation.  It lasted 3 minutes.

Some people think church camp doesn’t matter anymore, that it’s obsolete.  Kids have too much other stuff to do with their time, they’ll say.  To them I say, church camp still matters to that little girl.  It still matters because she needs somewhere in her life to receive that applause.  It matters because those other kids need a safe place to practice loving like Jesus loved.  It matters because there still need to be places in the world where we practice living as if the Kingdom of Heaven has already come to Earth.  It still matters.

I believe in church camp.

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 GA TIB BOOK Tiff WilliamsRev. Tiff Austin Williams (TCU ’05) is the Director of Programming at Disciples Crossing Camp in Athens, Texas. She is married to Daryn and they have a one-year-old daughter named Belle, who is the star of their household.  Of all of her college experiences, Tiff is most grateful for her time in the TCU Religion Department, where she was taught to be a citizen of the world.  She apologizes to Dr. Lahutsky for the probable grammatical errors in this text

I Believe in the Power of Connection, by Sam Baxter

I believe in the power of connection. Connection is defined as a relationship in which a person or idea is linked to another mutual interest. Growing up as a member of First Christian Church of McKinney and continuing to be actively engaged in the Disciples of Christ denomination I have felt a sense of connection. Starting with my childhood I began loving my church community through my once a week visits to the church nursery, which led to me becoming an active vacation bible school go-er. Growing up I became a leader of the church youth by attending mission trips and serving through youth ministry council throughout my middle school and high school years. During all of these engagements I have felt the support and love from my church family, which taught me what it means to be One Body serving Christ.

During my senior year of high school, when I was searching for a college to attend, I wanted to find a place where I could have the same sense of family and connection at my new home away from home. Being the sixth member of my family to attend TCU, I knew about the Connection Culture TCU had to offer. When I stepped foot on campus for my own tour, I began to understand what the TCU family is all about, and the pride that comes with being a Horned Frog through all the friendly faces on campus. The tight knit community of learners, scholars and friends is what makes Texas Christian University unique, and is what led me to continue my family’s tradition of being a Horned Frog.

When I arrived on campus, I took the sense of connection to heart, and began to learn more about the organizations I had the chance of joining. Not too long after attending welcome events, I easily found my schedule to be filled with an overwhelming amount of activities going on outside of the classroom, but I accomplished my personal goal of becoming as involved and connected as possible. Because of my connectedness on campus, I have been able to love my first two years at TCU. This experience has been much more than simply going to class and reaching for that 4.0 every student desires to have. I have interacted with first year students by serving as an orientation leader, am a member of a social fraternity and connect with future frogs by giving tours on campus. Through these interactions I have met multiple people that have their own story to tell. I am a firm believer that the more connected a person is on campus, the more likely they are going to be engaged in the opportunities and relationships able to be formed with people from all walks of life. The more engaged a person is, the greater the chance that they will feel a sense of purpose, which will lead to them feeling connected to the TCU community. TCU has the ability to challenge each student to become an “ethical leader and responsible citizen” if they take the time to engage in the Connection Culture.

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GA TIB BOOK Sam BaxterSam Baxter is a junior Supply Chain and Business Information Systems double major from McKinney, Texas. He is involved in a variety of things on campus including a fraternity, the BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program, and facilitates a number of programs with the Office of the First Year Experience. Sam has been a member of First Christian Church, McKinney all his life.

I Believe Hospitality, Real Hospitality, Can Change the World, by Rev. Dani Loving Cartwright

I learned hospitality from Patsy Forbus.  She was like my second mother. She lived three houses down and knew me since the day I was born.  Her daughter was one of my best friends and we played between our houses almost every day.  Funny thing, we almost always ended up sitting around Patsy’s kitchen table, enjoying a little treat- a sip of water or (if we were lucky) a glass of Coca Cola- and talking about the day.  Patsy had this way of opening up that table to include as many of us as had stopped in.  There was always plenty; there was always a space; there was always time for her to sit and listen….really listen…to what we had to say and ask questions, and laugh with us, and talk through the stuff of childhood with us.  This comfortable, kidney-shaped table in the middle of her warm kitchen was just right for squeezing in and sitting close, and, making room for each one and paying attention to everyone. She taught us, in how she opened that space, that hospitality – real hospitality – provided comfort and calm and refreshment, even for our souls.

That kind of hospitality I learned at Patsy’s table was practiced, too, by a first-century Rabbi whose Table was wherever he was, and the “treat” whatever was there.  Loaves and fishes, or water and wine, he made a space so that those around him could be welcomed.   Space where they could be heard, ask questions, and listen as they found refreshment, even for their souls.

This has become the way I live. Making space for conversation around tables – some physical and some metaphorical- where sustenance and openness and welcome can be found.  Making a place- with a cup of coffee, or over a delicious meal, or sometimes simply the gift of time and space- where whoever is present can squeeze in, and share their story, experience comfort and calm, and be heard and be welcomed.

This I believe: real hospitality – “Gospel Hospitality”- is changing the world- one table at a time.

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GA TIB Dani CartwrightDani Loving Cartwright is a 5th-generation member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  As an alum of both TCU and Brite Divinity School, she bleeds purple! She has served the Christian Church (Disciples) as a congregational pastor, as a Regional minister, and now serves with the National Benevolent Association – the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as the Associate Vice President of Operations.   She is married to the Rev. David Cartwright and proud co-parent of the Rev. Douglass Anne Cartwright.