Stories: Finding Belonging in Unexpected Ways
After decades of enjoying church life and Christian community, Ruth Calisch started to find attending church difficult. Entering into her early 30s – after the loss of her mother – and a theological shift left her feeling like her current church wasn’t a great fit anymore.
Even though Ruth wanted to attend church, it became harder and harder to go on Sunday mornings. This was a painful and confusing time, but she found that she only went to church occasionally and wasn’t committed. Ruth didn’t feel like she belonged, like she had when she was younger.
A couple of years ago, Ruth started visiting different churches around Austin and really liked an Anglican church. At first, she was lonely there. But an old friend who also attended invited Ruth to sit with her each Sunday morning. After a while, Ruth had a sense of belonging. And that belonging continued to grow as the Anglican church, Christ Church, began working to plant a new community — Church of the Cross — out of its overflow.
“When the opportunity came to be involved with the church plant, it was a confusing decision for me. I didn’t have a lot of relationships with people who were going with the new church and I knew the challenges of being part of a church plant,” Ruth said.
To help her decide, Ruth met with Peter Coelho, rector of Church of the Cross. Tapping into pastoral care was one thing that Ruth had really been looking for in a church experience, one that prompted Ruth to to press into community more deeply by being a part of the church plant.
Over the past year, she has stayed connected and formed deep friendships through a COTC neighborhood group that gathers regularly for support, study and prayer. As a result, when Ruth went through a dark time last summer, she sought comfort and resources from within the church.
“Peter met with me and my small group was there for me. I felt girded,” she said.
For Ruth, service is another pathway for growing relationships with God and people. Pulling together materials for Sunday morning’s liturgy and scripture, and folding bulletins before church with friends have been surprisingly fulfilling ways to connect with the community. . And so is the Sunday morning service, Ruth said.
“I enjoy the encouraging theology and preaching. At the end of communion, I love that moment when Peter holds up the plate to remind us: ‘There’s enough of God for you to have what you need,’” she explained.
When describing COTC to friends, Ruth calls it a “sweet church — a healthy and vibrant place where people feel they belong.”
“I feel like we celebrate God’s goodness very clearly,” Ruth said. “That emboldens us — it strengthens us toward pursuing Christ.”