Roland Kistler is a longtime member of Round Hill Community Church. He and his wife Alison have run our annual Beach Day for many years, and Roland coordinates the cooking and serving for Pacific House, a homeless shelter in Stamford, once a month. He also organizes and runs the making of gingerbread houses for the Advent Workshop and for 100 children at an afterschool program at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in the South Bronx.
For how long have you been a member of RHCC and what brought you here?
We have been members for about ten years. I was working for Gymboree, helping them set up and break down every day. I enjoyed talking with Steve and Lynda while I was there. Then Lynda invited me to help with the coffee hour one Sunday each month to give Steve a break and once I started listening to the sermons, I felt inspired to join!
Why did you decide to become a member of this church?
The warm and welcoming staff were always so thoughtful and inviting; the congregation was as well. This may sound a little strange, but it always seemed like there was so much to do. Our church is involved in so many different outreach programs and my understanding of God and his grace was deepened through every opportunity I had to participate in them. Afterward, the sermons on Sunday seemed to always pull everything together for me. I am so grateful for all those opportunities and understanding. This is what made me become a member of a church — in particular, ours.
What was your inspiration for the tradition of making gingerbread houses with children during the holiday season?
My family and heritage is Swiss and I come from a long line of pastry chefs. When my wife Alison was teaching first grade, she asked if I would make gingerbread houses with her class. We had so much fun — sugar, chocolate, candy, creativity, and a little bit of chaos. A gingerbread house is neurologically joyful and abundant.
You are involved in so many outreach programs, including the afterschool Christmas event at St. Ann’s Church in the Bronx and serving dinners at Pacific House. What motivates you to reach out to others the way you do?
My whole life I have always been amazed by the kindness of people. A while back I went through a very dark period in my life. My demons had me pinned to the ground and hopelessness became my companion. Then one evening I experienced what is called “the dark night of the soul.” During this dark night someone who I had never met before calmly stayed with me. I experienced Grace like I’ve never known before. My soul was freed and my spirit reignited. I am forever grateful to that person for teaching me that you never know what is going on in anyone’s life and that a simple act of Grace and Kindness can change a person forever. I think that is what Jesus has been trying to tell us for the past 2000 years, and that is what motivates me to reach out.
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