I do not love church shopping. I’m on my third round in 10 years, though, and I’ve learned some lessons I’m grateful for.
For many years, from about age 19 to about age 29, I wanted nothing to do with churches of any kind. I grew up Catholic, and as anyone who also grew up Catholic knows, that can be an intense experience. I had just about had enough of church. I married a guy who grew up Baptist and pretty much felt the same way.
You know how lots of people who stop going to church will say things like, “I’m spiritual (or even religious), but I’m just not that churchy.” I used to feel that way. Eventually I realized, though, that like a good friend of mine always says, I had become “churchy, but not that religious.”
I missed church. . .the community, the sense of thinking about things beyond myself and my day to day, the donuts. (I. Love. Donuts.) When we decided it was time to go back to church, we were a little, well, pickier about our faith and that of a potential congregation.
We found a lovely church home that was progressive and open but still very grounded in Christianity. They had a rainbow flag on their sign and pastors who demanded that we “bring our brains to church” but still sang “Immortal, Invisible.” I had never heard of such things happening at church. We volunteered on committees and went to worship every Sunday. If there is one word that feels clunky and uncomfortable to people who had been rejecting religion for 10 years, it’s “worship.” But there we were, and it all started to feel less weird as the years went by. We made friends and started joking to one another that “some of our best friends are Christians.” Still are.
Then we moved 45 minutes away, and we looked for another church. We didn’t find it for five years, but when we did, it felt the same. Better, even, somehow. The services were open, honest, and progressive, but still rooted in the Bible. This congregation had dinner together every Wednesday, after which the kids would go to choir practice and the adults would go watch videos of Harvard philosophy professors and discuss utilitarianism. We loved it there, and were so sad when, once again, we moved.
And now, round three. It’s hard, especially since I think, after all these years, I just may have become both churchy and religious. All these years of bringing my brain to church has made me even pickier about theology. I want a church that sings traditional hymns. I want a church that welcomes, without reservations, women and GLBT folks, even in leadership positions. I love the Bible, but I don’t believe that it’s the direct word of God or that it’s even possible to “live biblically.” Now that I know that entire congregations are out there, thinking similar things about their faith, I want to find one.
They tend to be small. And few. And far between, these congregations, and since we also want active, robust children’s programs and youth groups, we’ve been so far unsuccessful with this third search. But I suppose, in the end, I’m grateful for the journey, since somewhere along the way I rediscovered my faith.
Author’s note: I know that many people feel differently than I do about faith, and that we all feel strongly. My opinion is that blogs are a great way to talk about our personal and diverse faith stories, but that blog comments are not an appropriate forum for debate or disagreement on specific beliefs. Please feel free to leave a comment about your personal faith journey, but know that mean-spirited comments and personal attacks will be deleted. Be cool, internet. Be cool.