We often include a segment of our weekend worship hours entitled “From The congregation” in which someone in our church family will share a short story concerning their spiritual journey.
People try out new churches for all sorts of reasons—location, service times, contemporary services, a friend’s invitation—but did it ever cross your mind that the communion elements can make a difference? Well, if you’ve had a problem with alcohol in your life, even a bit of communion wine can be a concern. That’s one of the things that Ray A. had to consider when looking for a church in 1985. A recovering addict, he was looking for a church that served grape juice instead of wine. Bloomingdale Church fit the bill.
His first impression of Pastor David was in sandals and a robe with a big walking stick, preaching as the Apostle Paul. Ray questioned the churches’ financial status and wondered if Pastor David couldn’t afford a better wardrobe. (Ray quickly came to learn that Pastor David has a talent for bringing his messages to life, whether it be in biblical costume or even on a ten-speed bicycle!)
Fast forward to 2015 and Ray and his wife, Cathy, have made Bloomingdale Church their home for 30 years. Approximately six years ago, Ray started an open 12-step Recovery Group that focuses on the God of the Bible as the “higher power” of the traditional 12-step groups.
“It is an open meeting, so all are welcome. We are a fellowship of men and women who use Jesus Christ as our higher power to recover physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by sharing our experiences, strengths, and hopes,” said Ray. “I believe there are two types of people in this world—those in recovery or those in denial—and if you are not working on your recovery (that’s your relationship with God) you’re working on your relapse.” The group meets after the Saturday night service in the lower level of the district building, across the parking lot from the church.
“We had little to no attendance until we moved it to the lower level of the north building, where people could sneak in and out unnoticed.”
Aside from leading the recovery group, Ray is involved with the Saturday morning men’s prayer group and feels like his week is missing something if he doesn’t make it in. He also really enjoyed participating in Alpha.
Talking about the early days of Bloomingdale Church, Ray reminisces back to a time when there was a balcony in the back of the sanctuary, and he and Cathy enjoyed “sneaking” up there to enjoy coffee during the service.
When asked about any special friends at Bloomingdale Church, Ray mentioned long-time member Walt M. The two are together during Saturday morning men’s prayer time. “There is just something about the way he prays that gets to me.”
Ray and Cathy live in Wheaton. Ray started his own drywall company in 1990, calling it R.A.C.E. Drywall Inc., using his first and middle initials (Ray Arnold) and his wife’s first and middle initials (Cathy Elizabeth). In 2005 Ray got licensed as an Illinois Realtor (which he’s particularly proud of, since he was a high school dropout).
Ray was raised by a single father who worked to prove to Ray and his siblings that God did not exist and if, just by chance, there was a God, we should have no part of Him, because He is cruel and unjust.
Today Ray has these words to share: “Bloomingdale Church, for my life, has showed me that everyone (no matter where you come from, or what nationality you are, or what position you hold in life) will suffer from a habit, hurt, or hang-up; but you’re not alone, and God will walk side by side with you if you let Him.”
Our Neighbors: sharing stories of Bloomingdale Church people.