By Leslie Huff
A new wave of praise and worship has settled on the ground level of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is located in the heart of Youngstown State University.
Founded by YSU alumni the Rev. Jon Paul Robles and his wife Diana, The Sacred Commons is a new convergent church that practices the art of comfortability, unity and equality for all Christian denominations and faiths.
The church opened in January 2019 with the concept of including all denominations across the wide range of Christian practices. Jon Paul Robles’ interest in convergence Christianity piqued after attending a conference with people of different religions and backgrounds.
“Five years ago, I went to [a meeting] in Oklahoma, and for the first time in my life I saw Mennonites, Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians [and] Pentecostals gathered together,” he said.
Robles said the division between churches because of religion has produced denominationalism, which is the exact opposite of The Sacred Commons and has become a vital element in its practice.
“Churches [have] become so divided,” he said.
The goal of the church, which is also referred to as “the commons,” is to place emphasis on inclusivity for all backgrounds.
“We share each other in common. The love for the other no matter who you are. White, brown, black, gay, straight — we don’t [need] these qualifiers to love you and to be your neighbor. Neighborly love comes first,” Robles said.
Unlike the traditional Sunday church services, The Sacred Commons starts its service on Saturdays at 4 p.m.
For some regular worshippers like Hubbard resident Nelson Crain, the time is beneficial to their busy schedules.
“[Saturday service] allows you to do whatever you want to do during the weekend. You can still go out and have fun on Friday. You can have fun on Saturday. On Sundays, a lot of people have plans and can’t make church happen because of their weekend plans already. Church on Saturday feels rights and fits into scheduling,” he said.
Fellow church member Stephanie Crain said the community of the church generates a positive and encouraging atmosphere.
“There is just so much love and you can feel it when you are here,” she said.
In addition to the offerings displayed at The Sacred Commons, the space allows for the construction of greater intrapersonal qualities.
“Not only are you able to be yourself here, you’re challenged to be a better version of yourself,” Nelson Crain said.
Former YSU student and member of The Sacred Commons Shayna Ash said she encourages students to attend the service.
“Young people [have] a hunger for something new when it comes to church,” Ash said.
The Sacred Commons is located at 323 Wick Ave. in Youngstown. To learn more about the church, visit thesacredcommons.com