Driving through Cookeville, you can count churches upon churches of every denomination imaginable. I am not exactly what one might consider religious. However, I was raised Christian, like many people in the South. When I was a kid there was no question. Our family went to church every Sunday, and that was the deal. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized how many categories there are of Christianity and how many options I had. I quit going all together just before I started here at Tech. Despite the plethora of options, I wasn’t really searching for anything in particular in Cookeville’s religious community because at a young age I remember thinking church was stiff and boring and that it just wasn’t for me.
I am still by no means what many Christians would call a “true Christian” or a religious person, however, I discovered a group of people on campus unlike most other spiritual groups I have looked into in town.
Now, this isn’t to say that I have been to every Christian church in town and have compared their worship services because I certainly haven’t been to 80% of the religious groups in Cookeville because there are so many choices.
I mostly just wanted to find a group to study the bible in which didn’t pressure me to label myself or decide what I believe on the spot. I still have a lot of soul searching to do to really know my own beliefs, and I don’t know that I whole-heartedly believe in any particular belief system.
If you’re a spiritual person and are interested in church, hopefully you’ve already found your own niche in Cookeville. Unfortunately, when I moved here, many Christians I knew were conservative, and though it is fine if that is how you chose to worship or how you label your preferences, I really didn’t relate to the people I met in most church settings as nice as most of them were. I was interested in studying Christianity as a faith with other like-minded people or people who understand my struggle to “fit” in a religious group.
Luckily, last semester I discovered the group Come 2Gather. This newly formed group of 12 or so people varying in age has a very relaxed open-minded approach to religion, despite the fact that some of their beliefs differ greatly from mine. The first thing I noticed when I went to C2G for the first time was that there was no pressure from anyone.
The main speaker is Patrick Handlson who is also the preacher at First Presbyterian Church here in town, but he isn’t the only person who talks. He and co-founder Andy Smith, a Tech English instructer both deliver sermons and pretty much anyone who wants to share a message or talk about experiences or problems can do so during the discussion time given at the end of each meeting.
Soon, Julia Baker, a German professor here will give a message and nearly every week Jesse Nance, a Tech student, leads the group in music.
According to Handlson, when he and Andy Smith created C2G, their goal was to create a safe and inclusive setting for people to share their ideas about faith, as well as provide an opportunity to experience worship in an open and affirming way.
He said, “We wanted all voices to be welcome, including women and men, young and old, irrespective racial and denominational boundaries.”
He went on to say, “It resulted in an incredibly intimate setting, with people sharing their faith and doubts, their joys and pain.”
Everyone I have met there is accepting and non-judgmental and that is exactly what I was looking for in a church family. The support is there, but the members don’t all have to agree with each other on every issue to hold a meeting.
C2G is held at 5 every Sunday evening in the Backdoor Playhouse, and you will be welcomed by new friends and a potluck at the end. Even if you decide it isn’t for you, it is worth a shot if you are interested in the what a few other students have discovered.
Pat also holds a talk every Thursday at 3 p.m. also in the Back Door Playhouse called “A Bible Discussion for liberals.” I have yet to go and participate due to a very busy Thursday schedule; however, if it is anything like the open discussions at C2G meetings, I know it is worth checking out.