The Village is a neo-monastic mega house church nestled in the heart of Tucson. Its unique way of following God is born out of a passion to love our neighbors well by taking them into our lives and homes and serving each other out of the gifts and abilities God gives us collectively and individually. It is the way in which we live out our vision to bring healing to the city, one person at a time.
Neo-monasticism is a Village understanding of community that is different from some classic forms of monasticism. In the past, a monastery was most often a cloistered community that separated from the world in order to dedicate itself to a simple life and communion with God. Those within the walls kept vows in order to maintain community and be disciplined in seeking God. There are certainly modern day equivalents to these ancient communities. Our new form monastery seeks to tear down walls along the lines of St. Patrick’s entry into Ireland for the purpose of the mission of God. We seek to walk among our neighbors and friends as the embodiment of the gospel and live our lives together in such a way that the mission of God is honored. To that end, we choose to engage each other in homes and over meals. The building
God gave us looks a lot like a house. You walk into the kitchen and move easily into the living room. We play songs we have written, hang art that we have created on the walls, and eat food that our own hands prepare, although sometimes the cooks wants a night off so we order in pizza. We have kid rooms in the back and they are always a mess even though we beg them to clean their rooms. There are picnic tables in the backyard along with a playground area complete with swings and a slide. The house is filled with comfortable chairs and couches and we are always dragging them around in order to make it easier to engage each other. It is our home.
We are always inviting people over to the house. We love it when folks show up and we do our best to extend hospitality to them. We are a bit absentminded so we sometimes forget to tell them where the bathrooms are or ask if they’d like a drink or make sure they get some dinner before the kids come back for seconds. We try to respect the millions of diverse opinions and expectations of our guests. We truly want folks to stay and engage and maybe become part of the family even if that means they just want to be third cousins twice removed. We know it is difficult to walk into somebody’s house and feel comfortable, but that is one of our deepest longings.
We are an open monastery, but we do take vows. They are vows of love. We are guided by certain values and we agree to do our best to live them out and to honor God and each other as we do so. These primary values are community, accessibility, authenticity, creativity, truth, and the disciplines.
I believe Part one
I believe. Those are powerful words. We live in a world where we choose to believe certain things. When we say we believe something we are saying that we have faith. I believe that all the little mechanical components of my car will, if operated properly, propel me in a direction I want to go. I believe that the engineers and the designers and the assembly folks did their jobs well enough to cause the desired effect. The belief is made real when I turn the key, engage the gears, and depress the gas pedal. Or not. When people say that don’t believe I always smile to myself. People operate out of faith all the time. Our real question is what do we believe in. We exercise faith all the time. Having faith, or believing, is sometimes rewarded and sometimes not. We can be disappointed when our faith is foiled. We can assume that it is the way it is supposed to be when our faith is borne out. The Apostle’s Creed begins with the words, “I believe…” It is hard sometimes to say those words. It is hard because we aren’t always sure of what comes next. What if we don’t believe what follows? For those of us who have walked with God a long time the words can quickly flow off our tongues almost without thought. For those who are coming to terms with their belief in God or for those who have been confronted with evidence seemingly to the contrary, the words can cause us to stumble a bit. We often invite people to try saying the creed aloud. Try saying it to see what it feels like to say those words. Saying ‘I believe’ as an act of testing or trying it on for size can feel awkward and strange. The truth is that we all believe something. We either believe in God, or we don’t, or we are in that strange middle ground of being unsure. I invite you to pause a bit the next time we are rattling off the Apostle’s Creed. Think about the risk you are taking when you say the words, “I believe.” The risk of saying ‘I believe’ is that what you believe may not be true. The reward of saying ‘I believe’ is that your statement of faith may prove to be wonderfully true. It is a high risk venture. Throughout the ages many have recited the words of the Apostle’s Creed boldly and without shame. We are all doubters, but God empowers us to say with conviction that we believe. Scripture says that faith is a gift from God. When you reach that place where you can say ‘I believe’ with whole hearted conviction, it is because you have been given the gift of faith.
I believe Part Two
I believe in God. It is one thing to believe, it is quite another to believe in God. Believing in God requires us to submit to the reality that there is something bigger than us, something that is beyond our ability to control or manipulate or imagine. God, if he is to be God must be beyond us. That is hard for us. We like the gods that we invent and create and can manipulate and use and who bend to our will. God is not like that. He creates and sustains us. We are his creative work and his to do with as he pleases. He does not bend to our will, we bend to his.
It is not easy to ignore God. He is hard not to believe in. If we are honest and take a close look at all he has made it is difficult to pretend that it is all a series of happy little accidents or meaningless, mindless shoving together of randomness that results in something as complex and wonderful as a brain or a rose or a planet. That it is difficult does not diminish out capacity to pretend. Some of us struggle with being atheist. Most all of us have our moments when we are agnostic, that is, we don’t think it matters if there is a God. But, all that aside, we must come to grips with the concept of God. The Apostle’s Creed invites us to say, “I believe in God.” For all of us this is a hard thing to say. It means that we acknowledge his presence and his reality. It means we will have to come to grips with what it means to humble ourselves and recognize that we are not all there is. Such submission is difficult because like Adam and Eve, we long to be our own god. We want to rule and create and make our own way. If we say we believe in God we will have to lay down that desire. It is difficult to say, “I believe in God.'” There is also amazing things that happen in us when we can get to the place where we can say it with conviction. It is freeing to be able to say it and to believe it and to act out of that conviction. That laying down of self and lifting up the reality of the presence of God is a step of faith. And that faith is a gift from the one who made us and who would be our God. What would you have to give up in order to say that you believe in God?
I believe Part Three
I believe in God the Father. The Apostle’s Creed invites us to believe in God the Father. The fatherhood of God gives many of us pause. We think of God as Father in much the same way that we think of our earthly fathers. For much of my life I have thought of God as loving, but weak because my dad was a kind and loving man who was also unable to do many things because of health issues. So that became my picture of God. It is hard to imagine a perfect father. A father who listens and cares and is attentive and is kind and loving and who gives us what we need when we need it. Even the best dad on earth fails to be all that we long for a dad to be. God is the perfect father we long for and need.
Fathers discipline us. They do things that cause us pain because that is also a deep expression of love. Fathers sacrifice for us. They cause themselves pain so that we can have what we need. Fathers want the best for us. Fathers delight in giving good gifts to their kids. Fathers take pleasure in watching their kids do well. God is perfect in all areas of fatherhood.
It doesn’t always feel like God is a good dad. His discipline can seem harsh. He can seem distant and uninterested in us. He can give us what we think we don’t need or what we don’t want. When we say we believe in God the Father, we are saying that we believe that his incomprehensible ways are better than our comprehendible ways. That is a huge leap of faith. The next time you say, “I believe in God the Father,” think about the ramifications of that statement. He invites us by his Spirit to call him Abba which is Aramaic for daddy. Imagine the perfect daddy and invite him to be your dad
The specific purposes of belonging are:
Community. Just as the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exists in community, we as created beings are made for community, both with the Godhead and with each other. Membership is intended to foster deep, authentic community through corporate worship, sound teaching, faithful prayer, and loving relationships.
Encouragement and Accountability. The community of the Village exists to encourage its members to persevere in hardship. It also exists to hold its members accountable in their pursuit of the spiritual disciplines.
Love. Membership provides opportunities to give and receive love within the context of the church community. In love, we bear one another’s burden and place each other before ourselves.
Mission. One of the core functions of the Village community is to help fallen and broken human beings be reconciled to their loving and perfect God – a relationship in which they are transformed to fulfill the purpose for which God made them (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
The Village Belonging Covenant
When anyone enters into relationship with God by grace from, and faith in, the person and work of Jesus Christ they are entering into two covenants. The first is to journey with God for the rest of their lives and love Him fully. The second is to journey with His other children in the community of the local church. Your Belonging in a church is an official recognition of this.
The purposes of the Village Belonging Covenant are:
1. To join the Spirit in forming an authentic church community that reflects the relationship between the Father, Son, & Spirit.
2. To clarify the on-going blessings & responsibilities of each belonger.
3. To encourage consistency, accountability, and loving unity within the church family.
4. To accomplish God’s call for the Village church family. This agreement does not imply that you will never fall short of the goals, but that the desire of your heart is to fulfill each of the responsibilities stated to the best of your ability. We trust that your commitment will be a personal blessing to your own journey in Christ, as well a blessing to those around you.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, the church leadership covenants the following:
1. We commit ourselves to lovingly caring for you and seeking your growth in Christ (Heb. 13:17; I Thes. 5:12).
2. We covenant to provide teaching, preaching and counsel from the Scriptures (Gal. 6:6; I Tim. 5:17-18).
3. We commit that this teaching will span the whole counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:27-28).
4. We commit to helping you in times of need (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35, Jm. 2:14-17).
5. We covenant that your Pastors/Elders and Lead-ministers will meet the criteria assigned to them in the Scriptures (I Tim. 3:1-13 & 5:17-22, Titus 1:5-9, I Pt. 5:1-4).
6. We covenant to pray for you regularly, particularly when you are sick (Jm. 5:14).
8. We covenant to exercise church discipline when necessary (Matt. 18:15-20; I Cor. 5; Gal. 6:1).
9. We covenant to help you become equipped to serve Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).
10. We covenant to seek God’s will for our church community to the best of our ability as we study the Scriptures and follow the Spirit (Acts 20:28, I Peter 5:1-5).
11. We covenant to set an example and join you in fulfilling the duties of Belonging (1 Co. 11.1, Philip. 3:17, I Tim. 4:12).
With the guiding help of the Holy Spirit, I, the undersigned, covenant the following:
1. I have read and understood Apostle’s Creed and agree to not be divisive to its teaching. I also understand the importance of submission to church leadership and will be diligent to preserve unity and peace (Hebrews 13:7, 17; Ephesians 4:1-3)
2. I will endeavor to maintain a close relationship with Jesus. My journey in Christ will be evident through my regular participation in the corporate worship services and involvement in other small gatherings (Ps. 119:97, 105; Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:23-25).
3. I will strive to properly manage the resources God has given me, including my time, body, gifts and talents, attitudes, finances and possessions (Eph.5:15-18; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:1-16; Gal 5:22-26; Proverbs 3:9-10). This includes regular giving to Village that is sacrificial and cheerful (2 Corinthians 8&9).
4. I commit myself to the Village church family and agree to aid in fulfilling its missional purpose to both be and bring the gospel to Tucson.
5. I commit to using the spiritual gift(s) God has given me for the building up of the church, both at the Village and universally (I Pt. 4:10-11; Romans 12:1-8, 1Corinthians 12:7-31).
6. I covenant to practice the humility and sacrificial attitude of Christ by considering the needs of others (Philippians 2:1-11), not gossiping (Pr. 16:28, Matt.18: 15-17), and seeking spiritual friendships
7. I covenant to have friendly Christian relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ from other churches, but I will not function in leadership or belong to another church family (Hebrews 13:17).
8. I covenant to follow the biblical procedures of church discipline and submit myself to discipline if the need should ever arise (Matt. 18:15-17,Gal. 6:1-5).
9. I covenant to submit to the authoritative voice of Scripture (Psalm 119, 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Advent usually falls between November 27 and December 25. The purpose of Advent is to prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus’ birth, to spend time thinking about Jesus as our redeemer, and to find solace in the fact that God came to dwell with us and will make all things new in the end. The first week of Advent we focus on the prophecies of Jesus’ coming; the second week we remember Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem; the third week we consider the shepherds and remember that God sent His angels to announce His arrival to ordinary people who were on the low end of the social ladder; the fourth week we see the heavenly hosts proclaiming good news; and the fifth week we celebrate. All of this is done by lighting a candle each week to symbolize how Jesus’ birth brought light into the darkness, as recorded in John-1.
Lent is the 46 day period before Easter: 6 Sundays of celebration amidst 40 days of fasting. During the Lenten season we are called to focus on Christ’s ministry and to spend extra time in prayer, repentance, self-sacrifice, and doing good works with a focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is typical during this time for people to fast some element of food. In the early days of church history, the community of God was asked to fast two meals per day. Meal preparation and consumption took a lot of time, so clearing these away provided extra time for the focal points of Lent. The forty days of fasting reflects Jesus’ forty days of fasting and the testing he experienced in the wilderness.
Three important lessons came out of Jesus’ testing, and these may be helpful to us as we participate in the Lenten season. The first is that all sustaining life comes from God and His word. The second is that God is trustworthy and will not abandon us. The third is that evil cannot be defeated by any compromise; we must humbly worship God alone.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This day is often observed by a service which involves a priest placing a cross of ash on the forehead of each person, saying, “From dust you came and to dust you will return.” It is a solemn event intended to convey the seriousness of the process which it commences.
Pastor/Elder Eric Cepin / [email protected]
Eric Cepin, a passionate, multifaceted individual, is a founding pastor of The Village Church in Tucson, AZ, known for its highly creative yet orthodox approach to walking with Jesus. A seasoned speaker, Eric offers soul care and counseling, drawing from his passion for psychology and neurobiology. With a deep affinity for systems, he possesses a natural talent for helping individuals navigate their personal challenges. Eric also expresses his creativity by designing board games and hosting two popular podcasts – ‘Healing the City’ and ‘Faith Over Breakfast.’ His love for studying the Bible resonates deeply in his work, and he finds inspiration in the writings of Dr. Larry Crabb, Dr. Dan Allender, and N.T. Wright. As a dedicated husband and father of two adult children, Eric values hospitality, often cooking and hosting gatherings at his home. Besides being a church planter and coach, Eric also reveals his creative side as a songwriter. His diverse interests are not limited to theology and psychology – he counts ‘The Matrix’ among his favorite films, reflecting his taste for thought-provoking narratives.
Pastor/Elder Mark Crawford / [email protected]
Mark was born in Michigan and moved to Nogales, AZ/MX, when he was 5 for his family to serve as missionaries in northern Mexico. He started attending The Village in 2012 and has been serving as a pastor and elder since being ordained by The Village in 2016. Before that he worked in various ministry roles in Nogales, Tucson, Michigan, and Texas for 12 years. He was afterward ordained as a commissioned pastor in the Christian Reformed Church in 2021. He married his wonderful wife, Layne, in 2014, and they have three beautiful children – Saoirse, Thomas, and Orla. Together, Mark and Layne enjoy music, liturgy, and Doctor Who. Mark engages the community through music, discipleship, preaching, and songwriting. His favorite passages in the Bible are Psalm 77, John 1, and the whole of Ephesians. He also loves reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, Larry Crabb, and Malcolm Guite. Mark enjoys sports, games, and learning new instruments.
Pastor/Elder Michael Cousineau / [email protected]
Michael has been part of The Village since 2005 when he came to Tucson to study Philosophy at the University of Arizona. After completing a Master’s degree and getting married to Ashley while in Colorado, Ashley and Michael moved back to Tucson in 2012 in order to be fully present and active members of The Village, including leading Pilgrim Groups and Monastic Communities, producing audio and visual for Sunday services, and occasionally preaching and teaching. Michael worked as a teacher and a tutor for many years before The Village called and ordained him to be a full-time elder and pastor in September 2022.
Pastor / Lead Minister Susan Cepin [email protected]
Susan Cepin, also known as Pastor Sue, is a Tucson native. She is a founding member of The Village Church and has served as a lead minister, worship leader, band organizer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, songwriter, and Pilgrim Group facilitator and trainer. In acknowledgement of her many years of pastoral work within the community and her ongoing leadership roles, Susan was ordained as a pastor in September 2022. Susan loves to pray, study, sing, play guitar and piano, paint watercolors, sew, and bake. She can often be found playing board games or sipping a latte with her husband, Eric Cepin, and with her adult children Ash and Elliott Cepin. Susan also works part-time for the University of Arizona as an Admissions Evaluator. Her family has lived in a community house with the Brunson family since 1998 to facilitate a lifestyle of hospitality. One of Pastor Sue’s favorite verses is Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Trinitarian prayer comes from a desire to establish a relationship with the three Persons of the Trinity.
We recognize God as Father, Son, and Spirit.
As a kid, one of the beauties of a proper relationship with our father is that we are always amazed at
what he can do and we are always excited and willing to ask him for anything, knowing that he is good
and loving and will do what is best for us. We recognize that in our sin flawed world we don’t have
good father role models, but also recognize that God is the perfect father. With that in mind, we begin
our Trinitarian Prayer time by telling God how amazing he is and we describe to him our experience of
his attributes. We tell him about our knowledge of his strength, or majesty, or beauty, or love, or any of
the other qualities that we see in him. We choose to fully trust him. We also ask him for anything we
desire. We are willing to risk him answering ‘no’ or ‘later’ because we know that the perfect Dad knows
best what we should have. He may say no to ice cream before dinner, but he may take pleasure in giving
us our heart’s desire. We are confident that what ever we ask in his name he will give us and that he
loves us completely and will not give us that which would harm us.
The second part of our Trinitarian Prayer come out of a recognition that Jesus is the perfect older brother
to us. He has already been though whatever we might be going through. He has suffered death itself on
our behalf and sits at the right hand of the Father. He knows what to do in every situation we face since
he was tempted as we are tempted and he suffered in ways that we cannot imagine as he suffered the
consequences of our sin. He loves us as brothers and sisters and we can ask him to help us with
anything. He is always available to us when we are confused or frightened or when we simply don’t
know what to do. He will show us in his word and through his Spirit everything that we should do or
say. He never mistreats us or treats us evilly since he is good and righteous and loving toward all he has
made. We can depend on him whenever we are unsure and we know that he will correct us when we do
that which is harmful or sinful. We have confidence in him and can trust whatever he tells us to do so we
simply tell him what an amazing older brother he is and bring all of our cares and concerns before him.
The third part of our Trinitarian Prayer is a recognition that the Spirit is our encourager. The Spirit
always speaks truth to us and urges us to do that which is righteous and good. The Spirit can be trusted
and when we listen to the Spirit we hear that which the Father and Jesus would have us do. We realize
that the primary way the Spirit speaks to us is through the Bible so we open our Bibles and listen for
what he might be saying to us. We also recognize that the Spirit prompts us to do what we are called to
do through the still, small voice that urges us into the ways God would have us go. With that in mind,
we sit silently and expectantly waiting to hear from the Spirit. We ask the Spirit to guide us into all truth
and we make note of that which we read in God’s word and that which we ‘hear’. We listen knowing
that the Spirit will never lead us astray and will always encourage us and give us hope.
We finish our time of Trinitarian Prayer sharing with our community what we heard from God. We
share the Scriptures that came to our minds and we offer what we believe we heard to the scrutiny of
others who walk with Jesus. We recognize that God is also a God who speaks through his people and we
willingly submit what we believe is true to other believers and especially to the elders who are called to
be responsible for our spiritual care. We recognize that sometimes we do not hear clearly and that we
need others to speak truth to us. We listen carefully to those God has placed in our lives recognizing that
in humility and submission to others we can most often hear the truth of what God is saying to us