By Ardyce Curl
Marti Joy Peters-Sparling grew up in a Dutch Reformed Church. Her husband Tim Sparling grew up Catholic and was an altar boy two years.
The couple came to People’s in 2012 after Tim, a Nurse Practitioner, cared for a hospice patient who was a member of People’s.
“The patient taught me an incredible amount about spirituality and religion,” Tim said.
“We were looking for a church community where we could feel motivated to grow spiritually but not be stifled by preset dogmas,” Marti said. “We wanted a loving and accepting place where we would feel free to be open and honest about ourselves, and where our children would learn to be loving, kind and compassionate toward others.
“I grew up where I was told what to believe and questions like ‘why’ or ‘what about…’ were discouraged,” Marti said. “I wanted a church home where I can ask honest questions and get honest answers—where the threat of hell isn’t what motivates people, but rather the promise of love and understanding.”
They’ve found exactly that.
“We were disappointed that Jill left shortly after we started coming to People’s,” Marti said, “but we felt such a great warmth and commitment from the church members that we knew there was something special here that came from deep within.”
Tim said, “I’ve found acceptance, love and understanding, and I continue to come for self-exploration and education for our children. To develop a spiritual practice one must explore and be exposed to many ideas. Exploration of spirituality has enabled me to deepen my understanding of the world around me.
“People’s is a reprieve for Marti and me from our careers of dealing with human joy, pain and tragedy,” Tim said. “Our careers are emotionally taxing, and we need restoration of the reservoir of our proverbial joyful gas tank.”
He claims no specific source of true wisdom, but lately has been focusing on Pema Chodron’s teaching* about anger and attachment.
Tim was on the Religious Education Committee one year and this year will be an OWL teacher for grades 7 and 8. Marti hopes to become more involved and is joining the Religious Education Committee this year.
“I think this is a place where I can grow spiritually,” Marti said.
Tim said, “I would like to see Christian wisdom infused into services and continue to see balanced presentations of world religious faiths as sources of wisdom and to remain non-elitist.
“Also I would love to see People’s Church embrace alternative energy sources for the building. I believe if we invested some money in solar and wind, we could recuperate some energy costs as well as potentially make some money for the church.”
(Dr. Tim Sparling, 37, is a nurse practitioner, doctor of nursing practice, and is Survivorship and Palliative Care Coordinator for Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center. He plays guitar, is a vegetarian and speaks Spanish as a second language. Dr. Marti Joy Peters-Sparling, 40, is a family practice physician. She plays piano, is an accomplished potter and speaks Spanish and Japanese. They’ve been married 8 years and have two children: Oliver, 4, and Keller, 2.)
*Pema Chödrön is a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism. A disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, she is an ordained nun, author, and acharya, senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage.