We're featuring stories from those right here on the ground helping build our community at Christ Church. This week we feature Kaitlyn Winn, who grew up in Kansas City, went to college in Chicago, and with her husband Mitch was one of the founding members of Christ Church.
As we’ve been talking about generosity and giving this season, I’ve thought a lot about what Pastor Adam calls our “shared story.” I love that image – and yet I don’t think it always looks like a cohesive image of unity, but rather 1,000 images that somehow, unexplainably, mold into something enchanting and new.
Here’s a little bit about my story around giving so we can see how ours might fit together.
I was always really frugal growing up. My family was solidly middle class - we weren’t poor and we weren’t wealthy. We weren’t counting pennies, but we certainly weren’t throwing them away either. I’m not sure why, but somewhere along the way I gained a mentality of scarcity, and I was always worried about not having enough.
In college, I remember our campus pastor specifically preaching on generosity. She asked us, as college students, to give generously to a project was very moving at the time. I felt that fire we might love to hate called “conviction,” and I cried as I wrote a check for what seemed like far too much at the time. I prayed that it would somehow turn my fists that were holding so tightly to everything into something softer - something more closely resembling open palms.
When Mitch and I graduated, got married, and moved across the country to start our first grown-up jobs, we had no idea what we were doing; about anything, really, but most particularly around money. I was working part-time and Mitch had his first real salary, but we were drowning in student loan debt.
We took a class about finances that lit a fire under me, and we started budgeting and counting pennies for real this time. During the three years it took us to pay off over $100,000 in student loan debt, we made sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice. In our budget, we each got a whole $5 a month that we could use for whatever we wanted. I cut Mitch’s hair at home and I don’t think I had my hair cut at all for three years. No exercise classes, no new clothing, just enough for one cup of tea or coffee at a coffee shop each month. I can’t tell you the number of times we said no to our friends, our family, and ourselves.
But the one thing we also did during that time was tithe. It made no sense, but we decided early on in our budgeting days that it was important. So we gave away a full 10% of our income every month to church instead of the 100 other things we really could have used it for.
It was a kind of spiritual discipline for me - and since Mitch is the most easygoing guy you’ll ever meet, it was decided. I know what it is to sacrifice, but I also know that intentional generosity did something beautiful both to and for me.
Which brings me to the real question – why give? And more importantly, why give financially to Christ Church?
I give to Christ Church because I believe in our staff. Our tiny staff prays through and dreams over and plans every single service with such intentionality and creativity that Sundays have become my favorite day of the week. This staff has vision and compassion and the essential element of initiative to make the dream of radical inclusiveness come to life. They also somehow manage to dream up and plan church beyond Sundays, too – through opportunities for service, special events and community.
I give to Christ Church because I believe in our pastor. Our pastor who met me for coffee (alone, as a woman, even!) and gave me book recommendations and TEDtalks to better understand our church’s vision for inclusion as the way of Jesus. This pastor who listened with understanding instead of judgment when he went through a routine presentation on how to read the Bible – one in which I left virtually in tears because it threatened everything I had ever believed to be true. A pastor who has developed into a leader to be reckoned with, leading the charge on what justice and faith can look like in our world. I’d pay his entire salary if I could, and then I’d give him a giant raise.
I give to Christ Church because I believe in our community. Each member has, at various moments, held me with gentleness as the pillars of my childhood faith came crumbling down around me. They surrounded me with hope as I began to rebuild the most lovely things I had never dared to be true about Jesus, the Bible, and who God is. And when it all threatened to come crumbling down again and again, they placed the bricks for me, or just sat next to me in the dust. I’ve seen this community do it time and time again, not just for me but for almost every person in the congregation, and it has inspired me to believe that church.is.so.good.
I give to Christ Church because I believe in the dream. Inclusivity is nothing but pure messiness, but what beauty it has made!
There are a lot of days and a lot of places that I still hold my hands in fists, but here? Open palms just come so much easier.