Following is an interview with People’s people talking about why they came to People’s and why they continue to participate.
Emily Cutler grew up in the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. Several years ago she heard about People’s from River Artz-Iffland at the Kalamazoo Gay/Lesbian Resource Center.
“My partner, Sheila Reuther, and I came seeking a diverse and liberal religious community for our daughter Danica to grow up in,” Emily said.
“Here we’ve found acceptance, friendship and a sense of belonging and purpose. I see the potential for lifelong learning in this community and our daughter is very happy here,” Emily said.
Acceptance, love and learning are important to Emily as well as having a place where she can give back and feel appreciated, she said.
“As an atheist I spent many years feeling disillusioned with and distrustful of all religious institutions,” Emily said, “but People’s has helped me to understand and accept wisdom from a wide variety of religious sources. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn to become more respectful and appreciative of the world’s religions.”
Emily said she is being challenged to learn and grow spiritually and emotionally at People’s and has formed close, rewarding relationships with fellow church members. She’s currently chair of the Religious Education Committee and has helped organize the Service Auction.
Emily would like to see People’s be more welcoming and inclusive of people who come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
(Emily, 34, is employed part-time as a candle maker for the Kalamazoo Candle Company. Her partner of 11 years is Sheila Reuther. Their daughter Danica Reuther is 4 years old.)
Sheila Reuther grew up in the First Church of Christ in Owosso, Michigan. She and her partner, Emily Cutler, first attended People’s about four years ago.
“We were looking for a community of friends and like-minded/diverse people to learn and grow with,” Sheila said.
“I’ve found a great group of friends and this is a great place for our daughter Danica to learn about all the religious of the world,” Sheila added. “I really enjoy the programs, especially the intergenerational services, Christmas Eve service and youth-led services.”
Sheila said she appreciates a place where a variety of opinions and beliefs are allowed and where one is not shunned for being or believing differently than someone else. She herself draws from a variety of religious sources including the philosophies of Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity.
Sheila said she likes the little nuggets that can be gleaned from the sermons and from the high school class curriculum materials. She has been a teacher for the high school group for the past three years.
In addition to her teaching Sheila has volunteered in the White Elephant room at the Holiday Bazaar the past two years.
(Sheila, 39, is retention specialist for the Allstate Insurance/Kleinert Agency in Three Rivers).