I went to church tonight for the first time in nearly a year, aside from Easter and Christmas services. I did not make a conscious decision to stop going to church. It was kind of a gradual thing. We had so many major stresses happen in a short amount of time last year that church just seemed to be one more thing we “had” to do. The church we attend was having it’s own share of issues too. We gave ourselves permission to take a hiatus for a while. We needed to, for our own mental health. Our energy level and lives were already being run so thin that being part of another community, particularly another broken one, was far to wearing on us.
I struggled with this decision throughout the year, but still had little energy or desire to return. I was raised that if you claimed to be a Christian you must be an active part of a church community. I still believe this. I think an important part of Christianity is the Church Community… and all the good, bad, and the ugly that goes along with that community. As much as many church goers would not like to believe there is a lot of bad and ugly parts of the Church. With me consciously deciding to stop attending, I wondered if I still had a right to call myself a Christian. Did I believe that I was still a Christian? I still believed in a God or Higher Power… but I wasn’t sure where I stood on the whole religion thing. The Church, Christianity, is religion. It is all the history, organization, miss-teachings, power struggles, abuse, break-off sects, varying theologies and practices, as well as all the beauty, love, grace and mysticism that we know to be true. It is not God. I think it is a little ridiculous to be a part of a church community and claim to not be religious. It is common to hear Evangelical Christians, in particular, denounce religion and pronounce only a relationship with Jesus. Hmmm… I’m opening up a whole can of worms here. I think I’ll leave that alone. If you want to question or challenge me, message me and maybe I’ll answer in another post.
Anyway, one of the biggest things pulling me back to church is wanting Livi to grow up feeling safe and welcome in a church community. Now, that is kind of an absurd idea… safe and welcome at church? How many people experience that? I sure didn’t! I still hold on to an ideal of church though. I want Livi to grow up with a strong connection to God, however that may look for her. I want her to know the Bible stories, be challenged in her understanding of them and have the morals and ideas that they portray be uniquely personified through her. I want her to view worship as an authentic, pure display of someones experience, whatever medium that may take, and not as entertainment. I want her to experience the practical perks of being part of a church community too. I want her to give food in times of overwhelming joy or grief and receive that practical necessity when she needs it as well. I want her to be in a community where she is not judged, given the freedom to question theology and disagree with those in her community but still respect them and be respected in return. I want her to experience a community of inclusion, with members from all races, age groups, abilities, sexual preferences, social and economical statuses and varying degrees of brokenness. I want her to feel free to be uniquely authentic. I don’t want her to feel guilty for missing a few or a lot of Sunday’s in a row, for swearing, masturbating, questioning, befriending a homosexual, or any of those other Church taboos. Wow, that seems like a lot to ask for.
Maybe I’m setting myself up for disappointment. I do believe that by participating in a church community it is important to accept and learn from the failures that will inevitably happen but continue to strive for an ideal. Complaining about the shortfalls of your church community but not doing anything to try and help the situation is absurd. I know I have a lot of critiques on Christianity but I also think I have a lot to offer a community. No church is going to be perfect. No Christian tradition has it right.
With all this rambling I’m not sure I’m ready to commit and start participating in a church community again but I’m coming to that place again. Slowly. I am/have been a part of a church that has its own share of problems and baggage but it also offers the most grace based, judgement free theology that I have ever heard and that is SO refreshing. The community at Nexus, “my” church, is lacking but they are making strives to do something about that, while being authentic and challenging. This is a new era for the little church and I think I’d really like to be a part of it.