Jana Watson and Ben Jones began attending People’s in 2011.
Jana grew up in St. Peters, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and moved to Kalamazoo when she was 14.
She said, “My mother was United Methodist, but we rarely attended church. I attended a Baptist Church with my friend in 8th grade, but I became disillusioned with Christianity when I realized I didn’t agree with the church’s views on sin, hell and homosexuality.”
Ben had attended People’s church when he was in high school.
“Being agnostic Ben and I had no intention of ever attending a church,” Jana said, “but when the children were small we were concerned about the information and values they were picking up on their own outside of home. We realized they needed a place to ask questions without being told what to believe, and a community that would help reinforce our values of compassion and open-mindedness.
“When I asked Ben if he had any ideas he told me about People’s.
“We came primarily for the kids’ sake,” Jana said, “and I tried my best to keep to myself as I was wary of trusting another church community. I was skeptical whether People’s was really a safe place to open up.
“After a year or so of hugs from Diane and genuinely kind people approaching me, I began to feel at home,” Jana said. “I remember Jeffrey Klan and Dick Fowler going out of their way to talk to me and make me feel welcome.
“I’ve found people whose support, encouragement and shared values have been a source of strength and inspiration to me. Besides the community and inspiration I find on Sundays I love what the kids have learned here. I think the Coming of Age and OWL programs are invaluable in the growth and education of our youth. I’ve loved co-facilitating COA and I can’t wait to teach it again.”
Jana said a sense of authenticity, open-mindedness and a place where young people are valued and can feel heard is important to her. She has found that here at People’s.
Jana said nature, music and art are sources of religious wisdom for her and that often Sunday sermons seem perfectly timed to address issues relevant to her life at the moment.
Jana has served on the RE Committee three years, taught middle school RE and the Coming of Age program and volunteered in the nursery. She will be teaching 8th and 9th grade next year and is helping to work on next year’s curriculum as well as the revision of the future Coming of Age— curriculum.
Ben has been an RE teacher and a member of the Board.
Asked what she would like to see happening at People’s, Jana said “I would love to see People’s be more active with social justice work in the community.”
(Jana, 39, is married to Ben Jones. She has two step-children: Eleanor, 14, and Foster, 13.) Ben, 39. runs the website for Lee’s Adventure Sports.)
This article was written by Ardyce Curl.