We're featuring stories from those right here on the ground helping build our community at Christ Church. This week we feature Tori Case, who grew up California and moved to Oregon three decades ago. Tori is active with our Action Team as we continue to grow in depth and numbers.
I’m a native Californian who moved to Portland for a job and a more laid-back lifestyle 27 years ago. Weeks after moving here I found a wonderful church in Beaverton to call home. It was a full of loving people who welcomed me and loved me well. My kids and I flourished there for many years.
Although it was part of the mainline denomination I grew up with, this church was more traditional and orthodox than I was. I’m good at compartmentalizing though so I could set aside the things we disagreed on and focus on the big things that were the most important like the sovereignty, grace and great love of God.
A few years ago, my church undertook a multi-year process to evaluate whether they should leave the denomination they were part of. A vote was held at the end and some 96% of the church’s members voted to leave the denomination for a new one. While the move was a good one for the church, it was not a good fit for me and I realized that eventually I would need to find another church family more in line with my thinking and values. But I wasn’t sure what I was looking for and where to start.
About two years ago, two things happened that brought great clarity into my life. I was diagnosed and treated for cancer and Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President (in fact, the day he declared was the day I had my cancer surgery). There is nothing like a life-threatening illness and a feeling of great uncertainty for the future of your country to bring one’s values into sharp focus.
As I contemplated my future post cancer it became clear that I needed to find a new church, one that was a community living out the red letters of the Bible (the words of Jesus) every day and not just on Sundays. One full of people who I could love and be loved by, and alongside whom I could serve by loving the vulnerable and the marginalized. I wanted to find a community intent on changing the world for the better, finding ways to include all, not just those like me, ways to love those on the margins of society. I felt certain that we Christians needed to step up and do this now as I was afraid that there was great upheaval ahead for our country and the world. And thanks to my cancer I felt an almost desperate urgency to find a church that shared my desires.
Meanwhile, as the country marched on through primaries and conventions and scandals, I was concerned about how polarized our nation was becoming. However, despite the growing tribalism taking place across America, I was still quite hopeful and optimistic about the changes our first woman president would bring. Until she lost.
To say I was stunned and shocked is an understatement. I was truly afraid for our country, and our world. But in the days after the election, as the shock wore off and the fear abated, I felt even more strongly than before that I needed to find a community of like-minded Christians to weather whatever storms were ahead.
Several weeks after the election, a video crossed my news feed about a new church in Portland. I could not believe what I was hearing and seeing. Here was a church that shared my values and beliefs (something I was not entirely sure I’d ever find). It was a group of people who had faced some tough times but with hope and a clear and strong sense of God’s calling they persevered. A church what was inclusive of all, and not just when it was easy but when it was hard and the cost high. A church that was actively working to fulfill God’s call to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before Him. A church that was following Jesus’s command to love neighbors throughout our city, not just the ones in our neighborhoods. A church that was working for God’s Glory & Neighbor’s Good.
Due to holidays and few snow storms it was not until January, two days after the inauguration that I first visited Christ Church. I was not disappointed. I cried after Adam’s sermon that day. I felt like I had finally come home.
What was amazing to me is that every week, even before I really knew anyone, I felt loved. Rev. Adam reminds us often that we are good in the eyes of God and that we are so loved. I felt great comfort in being told that. It was so healing to hear not just once but many times. And as I got to know people and join in through volunteering on Sunday mornings and going to events and small groups, I felt loved by them too. And amidst all this love my faith was being transformed and renewed. I have not felt as close to God as I do now in many years. The growth in my faith has been explosive.
Nine months after my first visit, I am all in with Christ Church (I was pretty much all in after about 2 weeks). I am excited about the work we are doing to bring His love to all who need it. I am happy to partner financially with the church to bring all our dreams and hopes for Portland to life.