Wendie Bartelt, 57, and Chris Packard, 54
Wendie and Chris were members of Community of Life Church in Oregon, before it closed in May. Leaving one church and developing another community has been challenging. Your home church, Wendie said, “is kind of your family. You grew up with them, raised your kids together, did life group together, did life together. It kind of felt like I lost part of my family, because everyone’s scattered looking for places to fit in.” It’s been a big adjustment for Chris, too. “I’m not religious at all,” he said. “I met Wendie and I started going to church, so this is all new to me.” The Church, Chris said, feels “comfortable.” Wendie said people have been welcoming and friendly, and she’s starting to get to know a few members of the congregation. “So it’s just getting back to meeting new people here, finding a life group,” she said.
Kristen Carstensen, 43; Jerry Carstensen, 45; Will, 13; Claire, 10; Evelyn, 6; Ada, 3
After their former church, Community of Life, dissolved last spring, the Carstensens were looking for another church home. They tried a few churches over the summer, including the Church at Christ Memorial. They had dinner with Pastor Jeff and Amy. But it’s really the youth programming, led by Emily Powers, that convinced the Carstensens to join. “We just really wanted to be part of a church in which their children’s ministry was very strong,” Kristen said. “We had heard how amazing Emily really was. That was kind of the deciding factor. We just wanted our children to be spiritually fed and for their faith to grow for them to own it.” Will and Claire have joined Higher Ground and Life in the Word, respectively. And the family just attended their first Kids Connection last week. A church home isn’t just about community for the adults, but for the entire family.
Shane and Amanda Fisher, both 38
The Fishers don’t shy away from adventure. They moved to the Madison area about seven years ago at the encouragement of her younger brother, who worked at Covance. “We came out here to look at Epic, and then Shane became a teacher,” Amanda said, laughing. Shane started at a different company, didn’t like it, took an IT job with the school district, started working with teachers and libraries on things like coding and robotics, loved it, and now is three classes away from getting his librarian and teaching certifications from UW-Whitewater. When the couple arrived in the Madison area, they settled first in Middleton, then Waunakee and now, Fitchburg, as Amanda took property-management positions. They found friends and churches along the way, and started coming to the Church in March. “We had been going to one in Waunakee, and we figured a 45-minute drive on a Sunday morning, it’s much easier to say, ‘Oh, we’ll just skip it’ than it is to drive five minutes (to a closer church),” Amanda said. A Google search for a “contemporary service” led them here. “It was contemporary music, but traditional service, where you take communion and those types of things,” a combination the couple loved, Amanda said. The Fishers have dived right into their new community: They’re already serving as adult leaders for Higher Ground. “At our Waunakee church, we were mentors there for five years, and that’s where we met all of our friends,” Amanda said. “It was fun. … We don’t have kids of our own. We’d love to, but we don’t. So (being youth group leaders) helps to fill that, gives us a purpose.”
Brock and Julia Halopka, 23 and 22
The Halopkas are new to Madison, but in many ways, coming here has been like coming home. Brock and Julia grew up in Abbotsford, attended UW-Stout, moved to Des Moines for a year, and then moved here in June. The couple has lots of college friends here, and Julia’s parents Dave and Tabetha Otten live in Fitchburg and attend the Church. But the Halopkas’ ties here run even deeper.
“Way back, my parents grew up in Abbotsford, too,” Julia said. “They went to the same church as (Pastor) Matt, when they lived in Wausau, originally, and his dad was the pastor there. Then my dad got a new job in Madison, and Matt and Kate obviously were here and kind of sent a message, ‘Hey, you should come here’. I was still coming back and forth to college in between college semesters and stuff. So we’ve been going to the Church since my parents started going, maybe four years ago. Almost five years ago now? So, when we moved to Madison, we just knew that we wanted to come back and officially go here.”
Lindsey Wilson, 25
A native of the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Lindsey attended Marquette University and moved to the Madison area last fall. Lindsey said she hasn’t developed a tight group of friends, yet, but she’s building a life here, bit by bit. She lives in Middleton and works in the pathology lab at St. Mary’s University. She’s training for a half-marathon, is involved in a soccer league and joined a book club as well. “I love it here, so it’s been good so far,” she said. Lindsey grew up as a Christian, and her mom helped her find the Church. “I like the contrast (in the services),” Lindsey said. “Some weeks I’ll come and it’ll be more modern, some weeks I’ll come and it’ll be more traditional. But I’ve really connected, too, with the sermons. The messages I feel like speak to me and I can relate to, have time to reflect on.”