Shortly after I moved to Florida and after my husband and I were married, we found ourselves “church shopping.” For anyone who has ever been in this position before you know just how exhausting this can be. Before even moving to FL I was on the church hunt on a much smaller scale, but living in a higher populated area made this an even more exhausting experience. Which city? What denomination? How far do I want to drive? How big of a church? The questions were endless and my husband and I were already over it before we even began.
Where we lived at the time, there was a super convenient short cut road that we used quite frequently to get to the bank, grocery store, McDonald’s – it really came in handy more than we care to admit. Since we used this road quite often, we kept tabs on any new construction that was happening, but one project caught our eye more than others. A new road. One that was gated. One that had guardrails. Where in the heck did this road lead?! Another gated community? You have got to be kidding me. A private residence? We could respect that. We were so curious as to where this new road lead that late one night my husband so desperately wanted to pull the car over and walk down this road surrounded by nature to see where it ended. I convinced him otherwise being the level headed realist that I am. Cause after all, what if it was private property? I’m not about to be a newlywed with her husband in jail on account for trespassing!
Fast forward a month or two…We were on our way to a friend’s church to help him lead worship and we were using our ever faithful short cut road. Much to our surprise, the gate was open!
Not being the type to care about timeframes, my husband decides we’re going to drive down this road to see just where it leads. All the while, I am slightly panicking in the passenger seat still thinking we’re probably trespassing. However, what we saw on the other side of this gate and at the end of the road surprised us in a more pleasant way. It was a church!
And not just any church, it was the church my husband had found online in our ever desperate search for a new church home. What was even funnier (not at the time, but looking back now) is that we couldn’t find the church anywhere. We drove down the street with the apparent address and there was nothing there. What we didn’t realize was that the street also existed on the other side of this mass of trees and you could access it from a main road. But we never found it. That is until they constructed this back gate entrance. So when we realized it was a back entrance to the church we had ironically been looking for, we decided to go the next week to check it out.
That first week there was the first week of many, as this church would become our Florida church home. This church brought me the best job of my life, as well as other jobs for my husband. It provided a safe space for us as a couple during both pregnancy losses. I was surrounded by love and support when my husband and I went through a separation. We both experienced healing, restoration, transformation, equipping, love, and countless other things while attending this church. I could probably write a book of all the things I have experienced while this church has been my home, and it’s only been a little over 3 years! There are no words for how much this church has meant to me over those years.
If you have read this far and you have been hurt by the church, don’t do the “church thing,” or you aren’t even a believer let me say one thing. Churches are full of things that cause hurt. Churches are full of mess ups. Churches are full of imperfection. All these things? People. Why? Because we are all broken people with our own personal junk. There is no such thing as a perfect church, and I’ve even had my fair share of frustrations with this church over the last three years. But hear me when I say there is a HUGE difference between churches that just give you a chance to check church off of your to do list, and churches that truly desire for you to grow in your relationship with your Creator. This church is the latter. Not once did they encourage me to give up. Not once did they let me fall away without pulling me back in. Not once did they leave me to fend for myself relationally or even financially. This church has been more than a blessing to me and of all my favorite Florida things, this church ranks high on my scale. I will have a huge hole in my heart when we move and I won’t have the pleasure of attending this church. So many things can be said about my adoration and appreciation of this place, but like I said it would fill a book. So if you happen to live in the Tampa Bay area or you are passing through at any point on a Sunday, stop in at Harborside Christian Church. I hope you find home here in the same ways that I have.
Harborside, thank you. Thank you for all the memories. Thank you for my collection of “Kurt Parker-isms” (they really make me wanna jump a pew and slap my momma!). Thank you for the life-long friendships that I formed within your walls. Thank you for being the Church and not just being a church. Your establishment has meant more to me than I may ever be able to express, but this is a start. Thank you from the depths of my soul.