Home is…Community • Gretchen’s Story
When I was little, church was a really fun way for me to spend my Wednesdays. I started coming to CPC when I was ten, and I was in the musicals and participated in Elevate, Commitment Class, and all the Student Ministries programs. I’ve gotten to wear a lot of different hats in this community—be a leader, be led. Use the gifts God has given me. Sing on Sundays. When you’re trying to figure out who you want to be and you’re not a “real” adult yet, it means a lot to be trusted like I have been here. No one thinks that I’m too young or not capable. I’m supported and loved for being me. It feels like home.
Going to school out of state has been really hard for me. UW-Madison is probably one of the most secular places you can be. It’s huge. It’s hard to feel like you belong. I wish I could be at CPC every Sunday and leading high schoolers and middle schoolers on Wednesdays! Because I have this church home where I fit so well, when I got to school I didn’t know what to do or where to go to find that. I didn’t lose my faith, although my freshman year of college was really tough because I didn’t find a strong Christian community. But I had a great experience interning at CPC during that first summer and went back to campus really on-fire and ready to find the community I needed.
Some girls from my sorority invited me to Greek IV (InterVarsity), and instantly I was like, “Wow, I found my people.” Being a Christian in Greek life is not an easy thing. Our group is small, and though I know there are girls from my sorority who love Jesus, their faith isn’t a priority for them. But the Greek IV community has emphasized the real issues I’m facing as a college student. It’s been a big realization for me that your faith won’t grow without effort.
Being in Greek life has a lot of benefits, but it also has challenges for a Christian trying to follow Jesus. I get made fun of a lot for my decisions and the way that I carry myself. I’m just seen as this good little Christian because I choose not to do certain things. But I’m not condemning anybody—I know I’m broken, I make mistakes. But that’s not how I’m seen, especially by girls who are not of the Christian faith or who have let go of their faith during college. I do try to be a light and speak truth into people by the way that I live. For some reason that bothers people, but I’m just trying to be the woman God created me to be.
Despite those challenges, I’ve seen that one invitation to a weekly life-giving gathering can make a huge difference for someone. They don’t know what they need, but once they find it, they don’t know what they would have done without it. This year, I’m on the Greek IV leadership team, and I get to help plan the large gatherings. I want to bring to Greek IV some of what I’ve experienced here at CPC. Student Ministries really drives home that Jesus meets us where we’re at. We don’t have to be this perfect Christian, know the Bible back to front, have everything figured out. There aren’t boxes you have to check off in order to follow Jesus. That’s something that a lot of college students need to hear. They need to know that God loves them through their mess, that they don’t have to have it all together to love the Lord and love the people that He loves and stand for the things He stands for. We can sit together in community and work through the mess.
At CPC, I didn’t really dip my toes in, I dove right in. I got involved and stayed involved, even when it was hard sometimes. I continue to feel this place is my home because being around people that you know love Jesus just as much as you do is life-giving. God did not design us to go through things alone. The number one thing that can change your trajectory as a Christian is having the courage to be yourself and be real with people. Having a community and a place feel like home is huge, because even though we are all uniquely created, we are also in this together.
Gretchen is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison