Choosing a Church: College offers opportunity for students to seek spirituality

Spirituality is one area in which students often get a fresh start when they go to college. Many students use the opportunity to explore new churches that have different styles from the students’ home churches. Others seek to deepen their already-established spiritual roots at churches similar to the ones they left behind. justine_upton_churches

Life Center North | Rebekah Miller

Junior sociology and Spanish major Rebekah Miller attends services at Life Center North Church. Her roommate introduced her to her church community, she said.

Miller found that Life Center North was much like the church she attended while growing up.

“I felt at home there,” she said. “The worship is my style. It’s good contemporary music, and the pastors are engaging.”

The congregation enters the service singing “upbeat and fresh” music, according to the Life Center North website. After announcements and worship, the pastor delivers the sermon, which is followed by more worship and a parting blessing.

Life Center North is an intergenerational church where people of any age can identify with the service, Miller said.

“The sermons have just been relevant to my life; how I can live better and make good life choices,” Miller said.

Branches | Brock LaBenne

Junior math and communications major Brock LaBenne attends Branches Church. The worship style at the non-denominational church diverges from that of the conservative Baptist church LaBenne grew up attending, he said.

Branches values building a community over traditional practices, LaBenne said. This community-first mentality can be seen from the service’s onset, in the highly casual way the pastor welcomes LaBenne.

“The pastor swats me on the butt when I walk in. He’s all about building relationships first,” LaBenne said.

Branches’ service supposedly starts at 10 a.m. on Sundays, but in actuality worship does not begin until later, after everyone has had a chance to talk to one another, LaBenne said.

LaBenne has been attending Branches since his neighbor and the former pastor at New Community Church, Ryan Miller, started it.

Many Whitworth students attend Branches. Along with the strong community, the pastor’s sermons attract students with their thought-provoking and challenging messages.

“Ryan provokes you to really chew on the ideas in the gospel that seem contradictory,” LaBenne said.

Miller often takes what the Bible says and opens it up for members of the congregation’s interpretation, rather than presenting a concrete interpretation of how the Bible should be read.

These provocative messages provide a fresh alternative to LaBenne’s childhood Baptist church, where the congregation could simply hear the good news and go home happy, LaBenne said.

The focus at Branches fosters a much deeper understanding of Christian teachings for LaBenne, he said.

“It has definitely matured my faith,” he said.

Manito Presbyterian | Kaitlin Schmidt

Senior English major Kaitlin Schmidt has been attending Manito Presbyterian Church in Spokane since the beginning of the semester.

Schmidt met Scott Starbuck, the church’s current pastor, when he was a professor at Whitworth last year.

“I didn’t grow up in church; I became a Christian in high school,” Schmidt said, “[Manito Presbyterian is] not very similar to the church I started going to at first.”

Schmidt gave two reasons for loving her new church.

“One is that everyone there is really committed to an environment that isn’t based on shame,” Schmidt said. “The second is that the pastor is not at all uncomfortable with dealing with hard parts of the Bible, including the Old Testament.”

Starbuck often speaks on the sinfulness of Biblical heroes, the discipline of being honest with God during times of trial, and on the importance of not trying to simplify God’s complexity.

Like Branches, Manito Presbyterian provides avenues for students to gain a more extensive understanding of the Bible.

The teaching at Manito Presbyterian often balances readings of the Old and the New Testaments, making connections between the two.

“It’s given me the freedom to ask hard questions about the Bible and God,” Schmidt said. “I feel free to be honest about things I used to be ashamed of.”

The church has a wide range of ages attending its Sunday services.

“You walk in, and wonderful old people say ‘hi’ to you,” Schmidt said.

The pastor welcomes the children to the front of the church to receive a special biblical lesson.

The worship has a more traditional feel, Schmidt said, worshiping to Presbyterian hymns. As the congregation enters the sanctuary, they are welcomed to the service with pipe organ or bell music. When the pastor calls for the congregation to turn to their neighbors and greet one another, they welcome each other to worship in the traditional way, saying “Peace to you,” and giving the response “And also with you.”

“[During the greeting] People traverse the entire sanctuary to meet with people, it’s great,” Schmidt said.

St. Thomas More | Stephanie Partida

Sophomore journalism major Stephanie Partida grew up attending a wide variety of easy-going Protestant churches, but was thrown off guard by the many rituals of Mass when she first attended St. Thomas More Catholic Church last spring.

“It was definitely a culture shock,” Partida said. “I didn’t know what to do, what to expect.”

But in these rituals (such as crossing oneself and kneeling) Partida found a sense of repetitive stability and comfort. Since her first visit, Partida has returned to St. Thomas More every Sunday. Although she has not yet been confirmed in the Catholic church, Partida has found a home there, she said.

“It’s very traditional, very organized. I walk in every Sunday and know exactly what to expect,” Partida said.

Entering the church, Partida is always greeted by a deacon. Upon entering the sanctuary she kneels before a crucifix and takes her seat in a pew. After everyone greets one another, the congregation sings “Hosanna” and takes communion.

“It’s very peaceful; it’s very calm in general,” Partida said.

New Community | Karina Dautenhahn

Freshman Karina Dautenhahn first attended non-denominational New Community Church when her resident assistant invited her to join the many other Whitworth students going downtown for the Sunday service.

“It’s different from most churches,” Dautenhahn said.

The pastor once asked the congregation to share their needs, Dautenhahn said. Members came forward with needs ranging from monetary to dog walking. The congregation came together provide for every need brought forward.

This community is the best part of attending the church, Dautenhahn said.

“The church I went to at home is really conservative, you have to dress nicely,” she said. “It’s not as inviting.”

Weston Whitener Staff Writer

Contact Weston Whitener at wwhitener17@my.whitworth.edu

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