Church Search (Part 9): Course Adjustment

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Several months ago we were meeting some friends for dinner, and not knowing the exact location, I was using Google maps with voice directions. Since we were too early to show up at the restaurant, I pulled into a small shopping center for some “window shopping.” 
Immediately, the female Google voice spoke up: “Recalculating.” 
It was “her” subtle way of letting me know that while I’d diverted from the intended path, but it wasn’t a total catastrophe. We could find another way to get where I needed to be.

It’s an apt illustration for those times in my life, when for a variety of reasons, I’ve found myself needing to recalculate in order to change direction and get back on course.

  • I made a decision with incomplete or inaccurate information.

  • A choice was made to go after something I wanted, but later realized I didn’t want it.

  • It was right for me at the time, but then…it wasn’t.

  • I messed up, made a wrong turn, and needed to get back on track.

One of those “recalculations” happened recently, and of course, I wanted to share.
First, some background.

For nearly four years, my husband and I searched for a church we could call “home.” We visited so many churches. It was frustrating, exhausting, surprising, educational…and often amusing. During our journey, I blogged about our Church Search, sharing my quirky, twisted observations.

It’s not a process I enjoy, and I compared it to all the bad aspects of dating.
I talked about what we were looking for in a church, and how we determined where to visit.
Some churches were eliminated, just by their name.
It was interesting to note that while most churches claim that everyone is welcomed, we found that wasn’t the case.
I gave my response to those who thought we were being too “picky” in our search, and those who casually invited to visit their church.
And there have always been those who questioned our persistence, and as best as I can, I’ve tried to tell them why a church is important to us.

Finally, we found a place—a wonderful, vibrant church. After several months of attending, weighing the pros and cons, we made the decision to become members. And of course, I included this in my blog, sharing the aspects of the church we liked, and why we made this choice. Honestly, at the time, I thought (hoped!) that post would be the conclusion to my Church Search series.

Sadly, that was not the case.
After nearly two years, we determined it was not the right choice for us.

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Author’s Note: Let me say upfront, and clearly, our decision to leave had less to do with the church and more to do with what we wanted from a church. It’s not that we disliked the church, or the staff. Quite the opposite, in fact. We just determined it was not the right fit. If I were to use the dating analogy again, “It’s not you, it’s us.” 
Or perhaps, this was our “rebound” church.

When I wrote about us joining, I gave several reasons that went into making that that decision: progressive message, diverse congregation, intentionally inclusive, commitment to social justice. These are important to us, and things we valued about the church. 
I was also very upfront about my reservations—a couple of challenges I anticipated would need to be faced. Specifically, I was concerned that a church as HUGE as this one might not offer the sense of community…and connection…we wanted, as well as opportunities for services.
But we put those concerns aside and moved forward with enthusiasm and anticipation.
Looking back, I think part of it was a form of “travel fatigue;” we were tired of visiting, and wanted to…rest.

Regrettably, it turns out I was right!

Recalculating.

Neither of us wanted to begin the Church Search again. It’s tedious and tiring.
I almost opted out of a another quest in favor of the recliner being my sanctuary! 

But with the twangy lyrics of Willy Nelson ringing in my head, we were "on the road again."

Thankfully, this search didn’t take as long.
In addition to our “criteria” of what we wanted in a church, we now knew a few areas that could not be compromised if we truly wanted to feel “at home” in a church. Also, being part of the United Church of Christ was a fantastic experience for us; we appreciated the denomination’s progressive theology, inclusivity and active involvement in social justice. So we focused on other UCC congregations in the city. Because each church is autonomous and self-governing (i.e., congregational) they can vary greatly in style, emphasis, approach to ministry, etc. (e.g., one of the UCC congregations was very friendly to us while were there, but it was apparent they didn't know what to do with a gay couple.)

In April, we visited a small congregation in North Dallas, and were immediately stuck by the warm, inviting welcome. There were several churches on our list to check out, but we kept coming back. 

Central Congregational United Church of Christ, which is more than 100 years old, is predominately straight, but racially mixed and a membership of all ages. There are some who’ve been part of this fellowship for decades.
The Bridge (Interim) Pastor is openly gay and African American; the associate pastor is also gay, but the pastor emeritus is straight. Recently, Central began a year-long process to “merge” with a start-up UCC church; their pastor is lesbian, and their congregation is predominately LGBTQ.
Together, this is an incredibly inclusive and energetic church.
It's very exciting!

And on Sunday, we made the decision to become members.

It is with great hope and that we’re home with our new church family!

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