Sunday, January 09, 2011

Going to Church

I mentioned previously that I haven't been going to church much. Not since I moved to Smithfield, and before that, very sporadically. Honestly, I think I might have made an attempt on Easter, and that's it. But Jeff and I went to a little Methodist church on Christmas Eve, and I think I'm ready to go back to attending every Sunday.

Part of the reason I stopped going in Williamsburg was the church I was attending. With over 2,000 members, it was hard to feel at home there...even after a year people still stopped to shake my hand and say "hope to see you next week!" Part of it was the fact that the Williamsburg UMC is a huge church and it is very, well, let's just say wealthy. As I was leaving, a fund-raiser was underway to raise money for a new organ that was estimated to cost 1.2 million dollars. No one loves church music more than me, but I can't help but feel that 1.2 million dollars could do a lot more go out in the community than sitting in organ form in a church.

Another reason I haven't been going is just the sheer exhaustion at the thought of introducing myself to a new congregation, being sincere and friendly and non-threatening, when I feel like my relationship with Jesus is so complicated. How can I be a good Christian, and still feel so passionately incensed at the injustice of the world? There are signs around here--similar in size and shape to the ones put out in front of for-sale houses--that simply say "No Matter What, Trust God." The print is blue and red, perhaps suggesting the trust be put there even if the American dream is sinking all around us. Most of the people who go to churches I've attended have been middle-aged or older folks, family people who have a fairly stable life around them. They're friendly, but they're not interested in points of theological debate or even admitting that sometimes just believing is exhausting in its exhilaration.

So today I went back to Benn's United Methodist. The congregation is tiny, the building is at least a hundred years old with stained glass and creaking timbers. The pastor gave a sermon based on the premise that you can't borrow someone's baptism. You can't borrow their faith or their prayers or the time devoted to reading the Bible. The message spoke to me. It made me remember how, no matter how depressed or far away from home (spiritually and temporally), there is always a promise inside of me that I carry with me. I was also comforted by the familiar trappings of a Methodist service. Reaching into the back of the pew in front of me I found the familiar red hymnal with the familiar hymns laid out, even the same four colours of ribbon to mark places. Some people think it's silly to do the same thing every Sunday, I find it comforting knowing that no matter where in the country I am I can always find a traditional Methodist service to attend. I don't know if this is the end of searching for a church home, but perhaps the answer doesn't lie within a building, but finding a way to share my faith with other people who feel the way I do.

I feel like the person in the poem "Footprints." I find that poem sentimental and saccharine, but it's also true. If you'd looked "behind" me for the past year, you'd probably only see one set of footprints trailing behind me. For the first time in a year I feel like I'm ready to be set on my feet, and walk on side by side, holding hands.

1 comment:

Samantha said...

I often find myself waffling between the same thoughts. I love the traditions and ceremony of the organized religions that create a sense of familiarity and welcome regardless of where in the world you may be attending a service. But at the same time, the typical Sunday crowd that attends more out of a sense of habit or duty than out of a sense of commune with God or a spiritual need disheartened me. How can one hour of partial participation truly be enough to satisfy your soul? How can some of these people sit there listening of compassion and justice and then turn around to ignore their fellow humans in need the rest of the week? It's hard.

But huge props to you finding your way back...and for hopefully finding a better fit. I hope this small community helps you grow. I'm sure you'll be more than willing to help them!