“There was a wide variety of experiences and beliefs among those who attended that may have easily divided us, and yet there was a perfect unity. People listened, acknowledged one another, and responded with genuine care and thoughtfulness. I was amazed and overwhelmed as I rested in the safe and sacred atmosphere that we created together. Several expressed gratitude for the space and time to discuss a topic they intentionally avoid for fear of stirring up conflict, with themselves and others.”
– Rebekah Castagno
Warning: Exposure to the light can have irreversible effects
At Rebekah Castagno’s sip session, 50+ people stood spell-bound for 2 hours in the very cool jewelry making studio of Sarah Korman, quite by accident (I thought). It was 15 minutes before go-time, and I realized the heat in the room we booked was no longer working. And of course, it was a bitter-cold winter night with a brilliant super-moon shining through the cloudless, arctic sky. What to do. Sarah and I quickly shuttled all of the chairs, tables, snacks and sofas into her space. I never once panicked, nor was I ever stressed, which I thought was a bit strange.
But once people began to arrive and squeeze into the studio, I knew why. We were meant to be, needed to be, closer, cozier, and right where we were. Something was at work here, and we could all feel it.
Rebekah brought us into her early life where the beautiful faith community her and her family grew up with was stripped away due to a health crisis her father suffered. For the first time she experienced the dichotomy between how generous and loving people could be, and also cruel and selfish. It shook her to her core, and had her walk away from so many things she believed in. And as a result, she quickly found herself adrift in life, compensating for the pain with drugs and alcohol and surrounding herself with the seemingly impenetrable-darkness only true hopelessness can provide. But then a gift came, her baby girl, who gave her a reason to take care and come back to the light.
This re-discovery not only led her back to faith, but also put her on a path to recovery. And that’s just where things begin to get interesting. Her faith allowed her to pursue a relationship with Christ that was deeply personal between her and God. This relationship compelled Rebekah to use her light to help others. And as a result, she spends most of her free time bringing ministry to women in prisons and strip-clubs throughout the region. Exposing even the smallest crack in someone’s prison, to show that the light can get through, and that there is something beautiful possible for everyone.
“There was a wide variety of experiences and beliefs among those who attended that may have easily divided us, and yet there was a perfect unity. People listened, acknowledged one another, and responded with genuine care and thoughtfulness. I was amazed and overwhelmed as I rested in the safe and sacred atmosphere that we created together. Several expressed gratitude for the space and time to discuss a topic they intentionally avoid for fear of stirring up conflict, with themselves and others.” – Rebekah Castagno
From spell-binding to soul-igniting
This started quite an interchange about religion. Many people in the room related their experience with faith to their relationship with the church they grew up in. And for many, those experiences drove them away from church, and in some cases, faith altogether. In fact, I had a conversation with one attendee who was hesitant to re-kindle their faith, because they believed it meant joining a church that didn’t necessarily align with their societal or political views.
Interesting that the church experiences for many became a prison, keeping at bay a connection to, and practice in faith. The conversation re-awakened the idea that our relationship with God can be a very personal and life giving, independent of a church. What was also wonderful, were the many who talked about having both: A deep relationship with their faith, and also a faith community. It can be both-and, not necessarily either or. One attendee exclaimed “It’s like Dorothy and her shoes! We have been chasing churches and the answer has been right here all along.” (as she is motioning toward her heart)
As the Sip wrapped up, Rebekah reminded us that we all have prisons of our own, and the person sitting right next to you might be suffering deeply within its walls. Reach out to them, bring your light, so your neighbor, your partner, your family member, a complete stranger can receive just enough of a glimpse of the light, to be able to break free.
This Sip Session was a gorgeous example of how desperately we are seeking connection, meaning and faith. And how just being together in that room on such a cold winter night warmed our souls knowing we are not alone in this search.
Photography and video by Mike Marques of Arbor Light Studio
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