Lenten Love Stories #6: Home Away from Home

February 1st, 2009

For years after my conversion I didn’t go to church. Oh, sure, I attended the odd service, particularly at college, where the Chapel offered up a different style of worship every week. And I church shopped in town a good bit, too, trying to find something that felt right. I went to Mass and TaizĂ© services and I raised my hands to worship bands and I broke big fat communion loaves in a circle of chairs, all of that from time to time. But I did not go to church with any regularity. I tried a bit of this and a bit of that, rarely staying long enough to be recognized or remembered, certainly not enough to be vulnerable.

Even after my dramatic (for me) call back to the Church body, I didn’t visit church buildings too much. I was still weighing my options, trying a bite of this and that but never feeling nourished.

Then I walked into a small, dilapidated-looking Catholic church in my neighborhood, something I’d seen out of a bus window on a trip downtown. Maybe I should try that one, I thought idly as it flowed by.

I tried it that Sunday and quickly saw past the crumbling building to the vibrant life inside. I think I may have finally found a church I want to keep going to, I wrote in my journal that night. I was immediately impressed by everyone’s sincere friendliness and the care which they took to welcome me. I also thought the music was beautiful and powerful, and the church itself is more subtle than some but very beautiful, with a carved wooden crucifix which displays Christ not sad and suffering, but triumphant, clearly the Resurrected Christ, with his arms open and a very welcoming feeling.

I felt very at home there theologically, too. There is a great emphasis on service in this community; they use their meeting hall to feed the homeless six days of the week (in fact, the post-Mass coffee and donuts sort of merges with serving lunch, a seamlessness I was impressed with). The sermon was a call to social justice, but also firmly grounded in Scripture… Seems like a place to acquire some wisdom and good influence.

I’m still going to that same church. Ironic that after all the different churches I sampled, I’d wind up at one walking distance from my house. And as I went regularly, I realized I needed to be there. I realized that taking part in a church week after week, sharing joys and sorrows, growing and encouraging others to grow, enriched me in a way church shopping never had and never could. There were completely new joys involved, like the first Sunday I realized I could hug people during the sharing of the peace because these strangers had become my friends.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, I still get the urge to shop. I’ve been at this church long enough to know that it’s far from perfect. Sometimes I wish for something that suited me a little better, that understood me a little better. But the wiser part of me knows there’s no place for consumerism anymore in my experience of the Church. Every congregation is human and broken. No part of the Church is perfect; only Jesus is. So I’ll strive to stay faithful to my little corner of the church, which has indeed molded and shaped my life in major ways, has fed my hungry soul with the Bread of Life.

I sit in the back and marvel that I’m even there, that I settled down and stayed. Truly, it’s one miracle that happens every Sunday.


2 thoughts on “Lenten Love Stories #6: Home Away from Home

  1. We are at a church right now that we chose for only 2 reasons: it was Episcopal and LGBT friendly. But it turns out that other than those 2 ways it doesn’t really fit us very well. Not focused on social justice, not challenging, very homogenous, very wealthy. While we like the individual people, we don’t like the church as a whole. But we are also fairly involved and run a ministry for parents of babies and toddlers. How do we know whether or not we should look for a new church? Where’s the line between church consumerism or always hunting for some perfect church that doesn’t exist and maybe we should actually move on to somewhere more like what we believe church should do and be. Any thoughts?

    • I think we all struggle with that from time to time, no matter how invested we are in our churches – as I mentioned, I certainly do. Obviously, it’s ultimately a decision we have to make for ourselves, but that said, here are my thoughts. You mention that the church doesn’t uphold some of your core values, so that’s serious. Do you think that could change? You say it’s not challenging to you – do you think it is open to being challenged, in love, by you and perhaps others who quietly share your views? Do you feel able to take on the responsibility of someone who challenges it to grow? I mean this question seriously, particularly for someone like yourself, with a young family and all its many challenges and demands on your time.

      Do you need to be in a place that nurtures you, challenges you more at this time in your life? Or do you think that, at its core, this is a community where you could sow some seeds with confidence that they could begin to grow? Can you see yourself committed to nurturing that slow growth, or do you just need to eat some sweet delicious fruit right now?

      I’d be more than happy to talk to you about this in further detail over email if you want. Thank you so much for asking the question.

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