Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Reflections on My Year at Cornerstone Community Church

By Sutton Smith

For me, the end of an academic year always brings up a multitude of feelings—gratitude for the people who taught me so much, relief to be done with writing papers and taking exams, and disbelief that nine months could go by so quickly. This year, I am experiencing an additional layer of feelings as I prepare to graduate from Yale Divinity School in a couple of weeks. 

Now at the end of my third and final year at YDS, I am feeling gratitude for the people who shaped my time here and taught me so much. This is true of the staff and faculty at YDS, and it is also true of the folks at Cornerstone Community Church. Participating in the Reimagining Church program has been a huge part of my final year of seminary, and many things I learned will remain with me as I move on to the next stage of life. 

I am grateful to Pastor Rubén and to the members of my working group—Jay, Lyra, Lydia, Neliann, and Pat—for letting me into their congregation this year. In our time together, we worked through some important issues that felt extremely specific to Cornerstone but actually, I would be willing to bet, might translate to churches all over the world. 

Over the course of our Sunday afternoon meetings following worship, our group of six met in Cornerstone’s conference room. We looked at the assets Cornerstone can offer (space, a kitchen, and people eager to help, to name a couple), the needs of the Norwalk community, and where those two things might converge. After much discussion, our group decided that two potential projects could use Cornerstone’s assets to meet Norwalk’s needs: a food pantry or an after-school program. We invited the broader congregation to a community lunch where our working group presented these ideas to see where God might be calling the church. After taking a vote, it was clear that there was energy behind the idea of an after-school program. 

Our working group spent the last few weeks of our time together having conversations with folks in the church and the community about their own experiences and needs, in addition to discussing the logistics of establishing such a program. By the time of our celebratory end-of-year gathering with the other Reimagining Church congregations, the Cornerstone working group was ready to take the first steps toward making this idea a reality.  

Though I will be sad not to be present while Cornerstone continues this work, I feel grateful to have been a part of it. I know that God will use the people and resources at Cornerstone to serve the Norwalk community, and specifically kids who need somewhere to go after school. Through open dialogue, mutual appreciation and respect, and deep dedication to their church, our working group laid the foundation for something special. Thanks be to God!

Image | Element5 Digital on Unsplash