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  • Kim Piekos

Powerful Stories Shared at Local Church Show Impact of Faith in Lives

By Kim Piekos

For 15 years, a trio of parishioners at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest has been mining the spiritual wisdom of individuals -- some quite well-known across the country -- to understand how faith has shaped their life and work. Almost 120 people have been interviewed in the Faith@Work program thus far.

“People love to hear others’ stories,” says Bob Murley, longtime Holy Spirit parishioner and co-creator of Faith@Work along with his wife, Mimi, and Mike Zafirovski. “I’m a big believer in shared learning. By listening to others’ stories, I’ve experienced hope and inspiration, as well as opportunities for self-reflection.”

Mike Zafirovski (left), Bob Murley, Mimi Murley and Luke Back have been crucial to the powerful impact of Faith@Work. Initially created to meet parishioners’ desires for personal spiritual growth and mentorship in their faith journeys, Faith@Work initially addressed parishioners’ concerns with the Great Recession when the program began in 2009. When the financial collapse hit shortly thereafter, the focus quickly pivoted to addressing parishioners’ concerns.

“We held sessions to explain the financial situation, provide a safe place for coaching, mentoring and networking and encouraging inspiration and hope, including faith in institutions and in God,” says Zafarovski. “Within three months, our focus shifted almost entirely to powerful stories of faith and inspiration.”

In addition to parishioners and church staff members, others from a variety of faith traditions from Lake Forest, the United States and the world have been interviewed including Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics; Toni Townes Whitley, a global technology leader; Dennis Muilenburg, former president and CEO at Boeing; U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Ron Christmas, awarded a Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam; Brian McCaskey, vice president with Chicago Bears; Edward Wehmer, founder, president and CEO of Wintrust Financial Corporation, and Connie Duckworth, former partner at Goldman Sachs and founder and CEO of ARZU Studio Hope, an innovative model of social entrepreneurship in Afghanistan, among others.

“We ask them, ‘How has your faith impacted your career and its development and how has your relationship with God impacted you personally?’” explains Mimi Murley. “We’ve learned that everyone has a story to tell and that they see God at work in their lives which has helped all of us learn to see God at work in our own lives more clearly.”

Zafirovski believes Faith@Work benefits not only the community but the speakers.

“Most guests say having to reflect on how their faith life impacts their work life is one of the most meaningful exercises they’ve ever gone through,” he says.

With the advent of live streaming during Covid, the reach has grown to thousands, including 30,000 views for the interview with Mason Plumlee, forward for the Los Angeles Clippers.

“The streaming and posting on the church website has been a real blessing,” says Zafirovski. “These impactful stories can reach so many more people.”

Rector of Church of the Holy Spirit Luke Back is pleased with the following that has developed for Faith@Work.

“Though the Episcopal Church is not traditionally known for being a church of testimonials, we’ve learned that there is great interest in hearing peoples’ faith stories,” he explained. “The fabric of a faith community is enhanced when you give people the opportunity to share their story and perspective.”

He also appreciates the care the Murleys and Zafirovski give to ensuring a welcoming, non-threatening environment where each person interviewed feels comfortable sharing the details of their life story.

“Mimi, Bob and Mike, as well as other members of the Faith@Work team, go out of their way to make this a positive experience for the guests,” Back says. “They create a safe environment where people want to share the spiritual treasure they have. There is a long arc of return from planting mustard seeds with each interview.”

Mimi Murley believes sharing these life stories gives people hope as they navigate challenges in their own life.

“Each guest at has left us with a nugget to chew on,” she says. “Testimonials allow people to share what’s on their heart and helps break down boundaries between people.”

Zafirovski learns from every person interviewed for Faith@Work. “I enjoy learning their backgrounds and their epiphanies in life and finding ways to apply them to my own life.”

Bob Murley is reminded that you can’t tell a book by its cover. “What you assumed about the person telling their story is often very different from their reality. They’ve all had to deal with adversity and have grown in and relied upon their faith as a result. It’s very inspiring.”

Those interested in Faith@Work programs can attend in person in the sanctuary of Church of the Holy Spirit or attend virtually at www.chslf.org/Faith-Work. Upcoming programs are posted on the website.

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