Called To Converse

Called To Converse

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Jason Normore’s spiritual path has led him to the creation of his own church

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Jason Normore has a dream. Through sheer willpower, determination, and a little bit of guidance from the Lord, Jason, accompanied by his wife Caitlin, plans to make this dream a reality. 

When’s the last time you heard of someone wanting to start a church? In the current age, this idea may seem outdated, even outlandish, but for Jason and Caitlin, it’s all about updating ancient traditions, adapting for the current technological age, and bringing in a new era of Christians.

The Local Church

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Chatting to The Herald over a large plate of breakfast at the Bagel Cafe, the Normores gave us the lowdown on what The Local Church is all about, and their plans for the future.

Jason and Caitlin met while both attending Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.

Friends of friends at first, the pair really got to know each other when Caitlin, the global outreach co-ordinator, was organizing an event at the school. She asked Jason, the chapel co-ordinator, to participate in the event by playing some music. The partnership didn’t come to fruition for that event, but Caitlin asked about his personal plans later that night. “I took that as a cue that she wanted to get married,” Jason said, jostling his wife. “I put the ring on the next day. We were at Christian school so what else are you going to do?” he joked with a laugh.

Jason’s humour and Cait’s easy-going manner helped the conversation flow as we discussed the couple’s passion project at length. After over two hours of chatting, we not only had a story, but a friendship too.

‘What is Life?’

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This conversation mirrored what Jason wants to see in his church – people of different backgrounds, different points of view, and different beliefs, coming together to discuss the many ideas and facets of spiritualism, in a judgement-free zone.

But these details were yet to come – first, we went back to the point in time when Jason found religion. His answer was totally unexpected.

Bouncing around schools in the province, Jason was looking for his calling, eventually moving from his hometown to the capital city. He soon found a community within the local music scene.

This is also where Jason started delving into psychedelic drugs like LSD, commonly known as acid.

“I had an acid trip that went terrible,” he said. “I had this experience where I felt like nothing was real anymore and I started to freak out. When I came down, and things were starting to make sense again, I had this sudden urge that I had to figure out why everything is the way it is. I needed to know why can we feel, why are we all alive – what is life?” he said.

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“I grew up with some church experience, so because of that experience in a Christian church, I decided I would start asking my questions towards Jesus, and exploring that. I moved in that direction, and decided that until someone can prove me wrong, I’ll just keep going this way.”

Spiritual Awakening

This revelation – no pun intended – inspired Jason to relocate to Toronto, to study theology and ask all the questions he had amassed since his spiritual awakening.

“I went from hanging out at The Ship to being totally immersed in this Christian bubble,” he said. The abrupt change of scenery was too much to handle. He left, and returned to St. John’s to study philosophy at Memorial University.

“That was a beautiful, trippy experience,” he recalled. “For four months, I sat in a classroom with people talking about the idea of God, and recently I discovered I believe Jesus is God,” Jason said. “In those few months … I knew I wanted to create a space for people like myself, who had a Christian experience, who actually had ideas about God, and who want to explore that, but don’t have anywhere to go to do that,” Jason explained.

“So you decided to start a Church?” I asked, somewhat bewildered. Jason paused, the same look of disbelief on his face. “Well, yeah.” 

Together, the three of us laughed at this somehow outlandish statement, envisioning ancient missionaries coming in and overthrowing the reigning powers.

Razing the current Christian hierarchy to establish a new system isn’t on Jason’s to-do list – he just wants a piece of land to create a space of his own.

“I had a good friend say he thinks sometimes our religious norms – the way we know church – those traditions are actually what hinder us from experiencing, and knowing, and understanding God,” Jason said. “We think of God as this out-of-this-world being, but forget that – If Jesus became a person, that means God is actually really concerned with us being people, and how we go about that.”

The Human Experience

This led to a conversation about the human experience, and the things we do in our lives.

“Jesus was known as a drunkard and a glutton, meaning he sat around a table with his best friends, his family, and people he didn’t know, to enjoy food, wine, and conversation. That deeply impacted people’s lives,” Jason said. “If that’s the way God expressed spirituality and religion, how do we do that now?”

He aims to break down the rigid walls of Christianity, to create an open and honest dialogue, instead of a one-sided sermon from the pulpit. While there are many aspects of church that he wants to evolve, he still holds great reverence for Christian traditions.

“I see the value in a community coming together and praying together, because I think that’s beautiful. Singing together, who doesn’t love doing that?” he asked.

“We’re trying to figure out how to incorporate things like praying together and singing together, telling God’s story, and The Bible, but in a conversational way that inspires friendship, and family,” he said. “Church can be so monologue driven, when I think Jesus was very dialogue driven … He listens so well, and asks questions.”

This is what Jason strives to do as a pastor of his own church. In discussing his plans with friends, family, and on social media, his ideas have been garnering an overwhelmingly positive response. The feedback inspired Caitlin and Jason to host interest checks, in the form of a casual brunch, to gage enthusiasm.

“It was amazing, just so exciting,” Caitlin said of the January 27 brunch at Common Grounds in St. John’s.

“We were nervous,” Jason said. “There were three options: Either no one showed up … 500 people showed up, or we had some decent people show up. Luckily, it was the third option. About 45 to 50 people came out,” he said, Caitlin adding that most of the faces were unfamiliar to them.

“It was such a great vibe. I wanted it to feel like a family gathering,” he said. “I did a quick welcome … and we just sat, and ate, and chat. We didn’t incorporate any religious elements. I didn’t do a prayer or anything like that. We did tell our story, which was basically, ‘Hey, this is who I am, and here’s how I got here. We’re starting a church, and we don’t know much yet, but here’s what we do know. If you wanna know more, here’s a computer – sign up for our newsletter.’”

Intense, Religious Vibe

Jason and Caitlin plan on hosting an event once a month for the next few months, without “an intense, religious vibe.”

“For those who are already wanting to be involved, we’re looking at hosting a conversational gathering where we actually open up the scripture, and see what’s going on in there,” he said with a smile.

In the fall, the pair hopes to establish a slightly more formal gathering, complete with song and prayer, but still dialogue driven.

“We have enough people who actually want to start having those conversations, and what better way to do it than with friends?” he asked. “Years ago, I felt like this was a good idea,” Jason said, noting that at first, he felt his idea was a bit selfish – to create a church, and assigning himself as the pastor.

After creating a social media presence, amassing followers, hosting successful interest checks, and doing interviews with local media outlets, Jason stands by his years-old thought:

“I still think this is a good idea.”

For information on upcoming events and more, follow The Local Church on Facebook at facebook.com/localchurchstjohns

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