by Alex Cashmer

I’ve always had a daredevil side to me. My childhood was defined by attempting crazy flips, tricks, and combinations through sports like diving, gymnastics, and dance. My social life is no different. I am oddly comfortable in a room full of strangers. How I developed this is beyond me.

Coming to college, however, was a different story. I spent my entire first semester searching tirelessly for a group of people I truly resonated with. By the time second semester started, I had nearly given up hope. I heard about UKirk through a friend, and I figured I’d give it a shot. It seemed like I had nothing to lose, at this point. After getting in contact with the pastor, I was told two girls would drive me to the first UKirk of the semester. I spent the entire ride there psyching myself out. I was 14 hours away from home, coming off my worst semester in school, and in desperate need of a family here at UA. Walking into a church group completely blind left me feeling skeptical; what would they think of me? Would I fit in? Would I have to hide parts of myself to feel true acceptance?

All of my worries were proven wrong within the first three minutes. Claire’s smile, Walter’s immediate recognition of my sarcasm (that still goes on today), and Elise’s overwhelming enthusiasm are just a few memories that still stick with me today. Everyone was genuinely excited I was there; a feeling I had been longing for for the entire Fall 2017 semester. I felt like I was home.

Those strangers I rode with on the first night are now some of my best friends. Tuesday nights have grown to be my favorite part of the week. The community at UKirk is unlike any I’ve ever been a part of. No one cares about your past. They don’t seem to notice your shortcomings, let alone care about them. Judgment is not in their vocabulary. Perfection isn’t on their radar. Conforming is not how they roll. They always have an open seat at the table for anyone who wants to join. The members of UKirk truly accept others as they come, with no expectations for someone to change. This is the type of community I needed.

This is the community I envision God has in mind for each of us.