holding hands in hospital

My ROOTED Experience – Invaluable Community

June 29, 2023
Austin Busch

My small group has been together for a while now, but this past winter we finally decided to do ROOTED. We mostly did it out of faithfulness to the vision of the church, not because any of us were particularly excited by the curriculum. However, it turned out to be a remarkable experience.

Regarding the study itself, the different rhythms it introduced blessed our group long-term. All of us who participated valued ROOTED’s emphases on telling our stories to one another and on understanding how where we’ve come from influences our struggles and triumphs in the present. We also completed a really cool service project together — helping a Ukranian refugee family. Even little things, like meeting weekly rather than biweekly, challenged us in positive ways. Our small group normally meets every other week, but after having gone through the ROOTED experience, we’re planning to incorporate some seasons into the year when we meet weekly because we all found that pattern so valuable in terms of our spiritual growth.  

Beyond the program itself, though, ROOTED was when my wife and I came to realize just how much we love and rely on our small group. During this period our 15-year-old son had to have two emergency surgeries — the second coming just days after the first because of dangerous complications. This was an incredibly stressful time for my family. In particular, there was one sleepless night in Strong while I waited for my son to emerge from the second surgery, which was taking longer than I was told to expect. I found myself increasingly anxious and confronting the possibility that I’d spoken to him for the last time.

It all ended well enough. He made a full recovery, and we basically put the experience behind us. That sounds a bit too pat, but it’s what has happened. However, about a week after the second surgery was done and my kid was on the mend, I thought I should tell Pastor Peter Englert what had happened since this was a big deal to me and my family. He listened well, asked great follow-up questions, and was very encouraging as I’ve come to expect.

Peter also said something like this: “You know, Austin, you could have called me, even late that night.” And of course I knew that. But what had occurred to me when I was going through this was not to reach out to my pastors, but to reach out to my small group — to get their prayers and support.

I felt encouraged knowing my small group friends were praying, and I later heard from one of them that he had felt a level of anxiety for my child that he imagined he’d feel for his own children if they were in this situation. That touched me, confirming for me that my family really had not been alone in this process. Indeed, we had not only prayer, encouragement, and vicarious anxiety, but also food from our small group and even thoughtful gifts for my kid to encourage him during his difficult recovery.

So it was from my small group that I sought and received pastoral care in a time of crisis, which happened to coincide with when we went through ROOTED together and got to know one another in different and deeper ways. Of course, this was not all about ROOTED, but it played a part both in strengthening my small group and in helping me realize just how important this community is to my life.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash 

About The Author

Austin Busch

In addition to being a Browncroft small group leader, Austin Busch is a professor of early world literature and Director of the Honors College at SUNY Brockport. He specifically focuses his scholarship on the New Testament and Roman Imperial literature, and he teaches a range of courses in literature, religion, and history.

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