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Posts Tagged ‘self-discovery’

A year and a half ago, our church was betrayed by its pastor. We were a vibrant, youthful, trendy, and growing church with a funny and charismatic leader. But his own moral bankruptcy was brought to light, as such things generally are, and all were dismayed. What do we do now?

Many people left the church quickly while some drifted away as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months. Some stayed, stalwart and determined, to show that this church was not about a single leader. The body of believers is the church etc. And although campuses shriveled and closed, a faithful core remained and now, more or less, the church is revived under new leadership and denominational oversight.

But what about me? The timing could not have been worse because, in truth, I was already pulling away. Despite having been in leadership from the very beginning (2011) and “all in,” as they say, for all of those years, I was changing from within. When my husband died in 2014, the outpouring from the church was remarkable and I am grateful for them and my own faith grounded in Christ. And yet, I found myself searching for a deeper understanding of God through silence and solitude. The upbeat, black box, theater atmosphere of the contemporary church was not easily fitting into this new wine skin.

I was one of those who drifted away with no place to go. I have been a church attender for nearly forty years. Sunday morning without obligations was a surprise to me, a kind of unhurried and lazy rising. In many ways, it was a truer sabbath than rushing out the door by seven a.m. to help set up this or that, attend stand up meetings, fill in for missing teachers, or run AV equipment; in general, work two back to back services wherever help was needed (the dream team).

After several months, I had to ask myself about church: Did I need it? Did I want it? And why? I have friends who have walked away from the institutionalized church and there are many books about giving up the routine of attending church. I knew all of that. And yet, as I began to learn some of the ancient spiritual practices within silence and solitude, mostly done alone, I wanted to share it too. I joined a couple of small groups and attended a few retreats. They were energizing. Was there a church that could do the same? Or could “any” church suffice? Isn’t it really about relationship–between individuals as well as God.

I thought visiting a variety of churches each Sunday would be fun. It’s not. I found myself with a secret checklist: how many people greeted me? Were there any children? How old was everyone? How was the sermon? How many attended? How did they celebrate communion and how often? What buzz words did they use? What clues were in the bulletin? How was the music? Was there anyone there “like” me? Was there diversity? Was the interior attractive? What kind of outreach do they do? Was there an unspoken political agenda? Was there an awareness of current events and acknowledgment of human suffering?

The list got longer each Sunday. It was ridiculous.

In the end, I set most of this checklist aside and stuck to these elements of discernment: Can I be myself in this place without self-editing what I say? Do I experience God’s Presence in this place and within myself while I am there? Can I grow in spiritual formation and discover more about the mystery of the Holy Trinity in this place?

The dilemma is not what this or that church has to offer me but who I am in the church.

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