A family circle

Shawn Seals spends his free time volunteering with his family at Perry Township’s St. John’s United Church of Christ

Shawn Seals met his wife, Jennifer, while attending the University of Indianapolis.  He said that he never expected to settle in the largest city in the state. He expected to start a family, and retire in a small town like where he grew up.  It didn’t work out that way.

In an attempt to win over the family, Seals said he decided to start attending church with her at St. John’s UCC on Southport Road.

“I was instantly comfortable and welcomed as an extended member of her family,” Seals said. “Within a couple months, we were working the nursery together and having the times of our lives.”

A few years later, the couple married in the same church, and a few years after that he found himself actively engaged in any opportunity he could.

Now, Shawn and Jennifer have two teenage boys, Douglas and David.  Both have been baptized and confirmed at St. John’s. The family can be found most of the time working within the church or volunteering their time.

“Several years ago a best friend from high school and college asked me, ‘Do you have a social circle?  It seems like you spend all your free time either at church or working to build up your church,’” Seal said. “This caused me a pause and in the end, I said, ‘You’re right.  I don’t have a social circle.  I have a family at St. John’s UCC, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.’”

 

What is it about your place of worship that helps you grow spiritually?

I grew up in a very structured church environment. I loved that then, and I still love that today. However, at St. John’s UCC, it’s easy to be yourself. One of my favorite things about both St. John’s and The United Church of Christ itself, is that you are free to be who you want to be.  With John 17:21 “That they may all be one.” as the motto of the UCC, it couldn’t be more fitting for me.  I often share a table in the contemporary service or a pew in the traditional service with someone who I consider a brother or sister in Christ, but we may not be on the same political, social, or other pages, but we are family at that time and in that place. This has shown me the truest way to share God’s love with others and I’ll always be grateful for that.

What is it about your place of worship that helps you feel connected to your spouse, children, parents or family?

Although I’m no longer as young as I think I am (45 at the time of this writing), spending time with my family during all the mission and outreach events at St. John’s helps us to grow closer. Working together on building the walls for a Habitat for Humanity home in the parking lot of your own church with Jennifer, Douglas and David was an amazing experience that I will always cherish. Working and playing together in all the other missions and ministries of St. John’s has opened my eyes to the true Glory of God; friends and most importantly family. Because of that mission and family-based attitude at St. John’s, I know that my legacy will be nothing more or less than the memories I leave behind for my family. I only hope they are as wonderful to them as they are in my own mind.

 

What is one meaningful event that has taken place at your place of worship?

Although this question is asked in past tense, I’m going to speak in future tense. That way I don’t have to pit my wedding, the boys baptisms, or their confirmations against each other; although they are certainly some of my proudest moments at St. John’s. The event that I am most excited about is happening this summer. As mentioned earlier, I am typically the male chaperone on our Jr. and Sr. Youth mission trips. Over the last several years we have partnered with an organization called Youth Works for our Youth Mission trips. We have helped those in need in Green Bay, Wis., we have helped support folks living on a Native American Indian reservation in Pawhuska, Okla., we have shared God’s love and support with the young and not so young in Charleston, W.Va., and this year we will be reaching out to one of the nation’s most challenged communities, New Orleans, La. On one of these trips, our Youth and Family Ministry Director, Jenny Zotz, and I began discussing the possibility of bringing Youth Works to Indianapolis and hosting them at St. John’s UCC.  This summer is the realization of that dream. We will host 60 youth from across the country at St. John’s for a period of four weeks, with hopes, plans and prayers for more next year.

Why would you recommend your place of worship to someone?

Why wouldn’t I? If you are mission-focused and enjoy being a part of a “church family” that really wants to make a difference in the lives of those around them, both far and near, then  you have found your new church home. At St. John’s we recently completed a visioning process to make sure we were still able to provide the community what it needed most from us. In the end, we developed our own motto, “At St. John’s UCC we are staying TRUE to the gospel by Teaching Christian principles, Reaching out through mission, Uniting as family, and Engaging our community.” If you’re looking for someplace to worship and be completely yourself, St. John’s UCC on Southport Road is waiting for you.

 

St. John’s United Church of Christ

7031 S. East St.

Indianapolis, IN 46227

(317) 881-2353

stjohns-indianapolis.org

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