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Dear Central Family,
I grew up around the faith, and my parents took me to church most Sundays. But towards the end of high school and the beginning of college—at the time when I needed to take personal responsibility for my faith—I completely fell away from it. I was not living my life according to the principles of Christianity. After graduating from college at the height of the pandemic, I started work at home, alone. And in that isolation I really struggled.
The first Sunday I attended Central, I heard a sermon on the importance of Christian community and how you can’t be a Christian on your own. That Sunday is when things began to change for me. A fire was ignited, and I was really curious to learn more. I began asking questions, and it has been a learning process ever since then.
Shortly after moving to New York, one of my relationships ended. In that process, a friend from Central prayed over me which I had never experienced before. At first it was awkward, but as he was continuing to pray over me, I felt the healing power of the Holy Spirit, and I knew I had to learn more about prayer. Jacqueline, a friend at the time who is now my wife, gave me a book on a 40-day prayer challenge. I started reading my Bible every day and a group of my guy friends began getting together to pray with and for one another. We've been doing that for a year now. I still feel like a baby when it comes to prayer, but looking back, I can see how God has changed me through prayer, over time.
The community I’ve found at Central has enabled so much of my spiritual growth by its willingness to discuss all topics, regardless of how contentious they may be. There are so many topics related to faith—whether how faith is perceived to the outside world, or the counter-cultural things Jesus tells us to do—that are really hard to wrestle with. Central is uniquely willing to engage in these topics, and that has been and still is really important for me. The reason I stepped away from faith was because I was trying to rationalize God in isolation, and I couldn’t. At Central I can discuss and think through the hard things, and my questions are continuously met with grace, patience, and kindness and a reassurance that God is actively present in my life.
I recently had dinner with a group of friends from college who aren’t Christians. They knew me really intimately in college, and so they were trying to figure out what was so different about me. They were curious and kind enough to want to figure it out so they began asking questions, and the conversation turned to some of the sticking points related to the Christian faith such as abortion and homosexuality. The “college version” of me would have answered these questions from a political perspective, seeking to build some kind of moral structure for myself. This always led me to get upset and angry in the past. But having a grace-based point of view and an understanding of my own sin and God’s remarkable forgiveness made me approach the conversation from a completely different angle and changed the dynamic entirely. Even though we didn’t agree, there was no argument and no one got upset. We were simply able to talk. I was able to humbly share what I now know to be true. The entire nature of the conversation was astonishing, and since that time, they’ve continued to ask questions about Christianity.
I feel an immense sense of gratitude to Central for creating the space where my life could change. Alongside others, I have learned that none of us live up to God’s standard, but through Jesus, I am offered redemptive grace. And I have learned just how true it is that we cannot follow Christ alone.
From the heart,
Marshall grew up moving a lot as the child of Naval Officers. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University before moving to New York City for work. Marshall is involved in Central’s Youth and Children's ministries where he strives to create the structure and thoughtful discussion around faith that he felt was lacking in his own childhood.