by Dan and Abby Nowiski, Lansing, MI
From the Peace Colloquy 2013 session: “Singing Through Life in Community”
We fell in love sometime between our first Alternative Breaks Board meeting and the spring break we spent on service trips in different parts of the United States. We bonded over discussions about social activism and a mutual commitment to a God who loved us and cared about justice and peace. Together we read continuing revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 163, and were fueled by the bold challenge to “be faithful to Christ’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom of God on Earth.” We yearned for community in which we could connect our faith and our desire to pursue peace.
As we studied abroad in different parts of the world we held each other, our relationship, and our future in prayer. We felt led to a new place, in a new state, so that Abby could pursue a Master’s degree and Dan could teach in an urban high school. We engaged in conversations about who we were and who we wanted to be. It was important to us that we honored the sacredness of creation by sharing our resources, reducing waste and owning only one car. We wanted to seek justice and engage in community.
We made what we thought was a responsible choice to share an apartment. We were not married.
We were welcomed with open arms and loved by our new church family. Dan continued his ministry as an Elder and Abby was becoming acquainted with the church. A few months passed and Dan was mentioned as a possible pastor nominee (though he was not interested in that role). At that time we were confronted with our shared living situation.
It wasn’t that we hadn’t considered the perception; it was that we didn’t consider how important it would be. We were young adults passionate about whole life ministry. Yes, we were living together before marriage, but we remained abstinent, had a healthy relationship, and were fully engaged in the life of the congregation.
Dan was asked by church leaders to refrain from public ministry until he was married or found his own living space. It became easy for us to point fingers. What about the priesthood members involved in dysfunctional marriages or never present in the congregation? Surely they too were breaking a policy. We started looking for another church. We were hurt and bitter. In a church that values the worth of all persons we felt like we were somehow less.
Decisions and rationale were given to us honestly. Several church members continued to provide us with abundant love, support, and encouragement. Eventually, we were able to see past our emotions and receive the blessings of community. We were able to recognize that all are called to differing ministries and that for that time our public ministry wasn’t able to be accepted in that place. We learned to extend grace and generosity to those whose ethics and theology were different than our own and to find unity in diversity.
We could have disengaged from Community of Christ when policy conflicted with the enduring principles, but the love of God shared with us through brothers and sisters along the way kept us moving forward on the journey.
We Are Pilgrims on a Journey
We are pilgrims on a journey,
here together on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
Words and Music: Richard Gillard, 1953– , alt.
Words and Music © 1977 Universal Music-Brentwood Benson Publishing
License number: 74431A Community of Christ Sings resource
www.CofChrist.org/hymnal **Due to copyright restrictions we are unable to post the entire song lyrics. Please refer to the song number listed in your Community of Christ Sings hymnal.