Several years ago, for personal reasons are too extensive (and whiny) to explain here, I took a break from church. I wasn’t mad, but I was disillusioned. While it went against what I’d been taught, I knew this separation was essential to my spiritual well being. My partner was still involved at our church, and I encouraged him to continue.
My “sabbatical” lasted nearly two years, much longer than expected. But I think it served a valuable purpose. Now we are looking for a new church, one where we can connect with a community of faith and utilize our very different gifts, abilities and talents.
Surprisingly, our Church Search has now lasted nearly two years. (Again, longer than I’d expected, and in future posts, I think the reasons will become clear.) In all that time, I’ve journaled our experiences and recorded some of my insights and (twisted?) observations. And now, I’m putting some of my thoughts into a series of entries that I’ll share over the next few weeks.
So far, we’ve attended a hodge-podge of churches—a veritable smorgasbord for an assortment of ecclesiastical tastes! Suburban churches, downtown churches, big churches, small churches, old churches and new churches. We’ve visited a variety of denominations, from Presbyterian to UCC to Disciple of Christ to Methodists. We’ve sat in traditional worship services, as well as contemporary and very liturgical services. We have listened to a host of different pastors—male, female, young, “seasoned,” black, white, Hispanic and Filipino. Some were excellent preachers; others...not so much. We’ve sung songs we knew and stammered through those we didn’t.
None of the churches we visited were openly anti-gay; I would never waste my time with such a futile endeavor. Some were in transition on the issue of “inclusion,” but most had made the decision about their “rainbow” affirmation of all God’s children.
In every congregation, we were objective. We were respectful of their identity, their history, and their journey, seeking to match it up with our own. Often we could tell quickly if there was no “connection;” other times, it would take several weeks (or in a few cases, months.) It was never about that church being “wrong,” just wrong for us.
Most of this “journey” has been tiring.
Often, it would be easier to quit and just stay home.
But I missed church!
When I think back on our experiences that I’ll be sharing...
Some were frustrating and annoying, though I’m sure that was not intentional.
Some were hurtful, and I can only hope that was not the intentional either.
Some have been funny, though I’m not trying to make fun of anyone.
While my perspective can be unflattering to the church, none is intended to be petty or judgmental, merely observational. I’m relating what happened to us; it’s mostly about the process, not the people. But here’s the reality: churches are declining in attendance and losing members annually. I think some of what we’ve seen/experienced could be part of the reason. Moreover, I think my extensive background in the ministry, including 15 years as a Pastor, combined with my subsequent 25+ years as a Public Relations/Communications Professional, gives me a different perspective than the average person who visits a congregation for the first time.
At this point, we “think” we might have found a church home.
We are trying not to get our hopes up because—as you’ll see in the coming weeks—we’ve felt that way before.
So, that’s the background.
Now, let’s begin our Church Search.
How do we get started?