Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Trying Church...Again

Disclaimer:  this is going to be one of those long, messy, rambly, processing-out-loud, blahgy posts.

I went to church again today.  Growing up, one mild area of friction between my parents was about how many times a week we should participate in a church service.  My dad was content with a Sunday morning service, and my mom wanted Sunday morning, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, and possibly a prayer meeting in there somewhere.  I sided firmly with my dad. 

I also suffered the burnout that comes from many years of being part of a tiny church where your parents are pastors.  Every Sunday meant work, not rest.  Cleaning the church, preparing communion, teaching Sunday school, helping in the worship service, interpreting, working in the nursery--there were always several jobs that needed to be done, and even those that I started out feeling excited about eventually became a chore.  As an extreme introvert, the idea of making small talk after the service and greeting everyone was excruciating.  I eventually reached the point that unless God writes something in burning letters on a wall, I will NOT volunteer or accept any special responsibility for many years.

Before our children were born, we seemed to have found the perfect fit for us in a church.  I loved the worship time, loved the pastor and his family and always came away from the services refreshed and looking for God in a new way.  Then.  Then we had kids and God changed some things in me.  Then the pastor preached on spanking and how if we love God and our children, then we will hit them.  And I couldn't let that go, and my husband and I wrote a letter, which eventually resulted in this blog.  At first, I just figured we could agree to disagree, but the convictions in my heart about how we treat the smallest of these grew until I couldn't sit under a pastor who preaches that we have to spank any longer.

When you have four very young children and are committed not to leaving them to cry in church with people that you probably don't know well enough to let them babysit outside of church, going seems like an exercise in futility.  I spent most of my time walking the kidlets in the halls or hanging out in a nursery with germy toys and crying little ones.  I never came away feeling spiritually fed, that is for sure. 

So we just stopped going.

Every now and then we would try different ones, but they all preached about spanking on the very day we decided to visit, which is almost funny--really, it seemed like a bizarre coincidence, but it saved us time.  After the last fiasco, I couldn't even work up the desire to try anymore. 

It felt so awkward answering questions about where we go to church.  I felt like our kids were missing out on something important, and I missed it for myself.  Although, when we visited any church, I was always tense, waiting for the ick to start.  I also found my emotions going haywire with all kinds of little things, and it was generally exhausting and stressful.

But this morning, I worked up the courage to try again.  After reading the encouraging statement from the United Methodist Church regarding corporal punishment, I decided to go there.  Their only service is at 9:00 AM, which is a little earlier than I am used to, but my nine year old and I managed to go, and my husband graciously took over the younger ones so that I could enjoy the service in peace.

The congregation was really friendly.  I liked it that there was a pretty wide variety of dress--from casual pants and T shirts to fancy dresses and heels.  It felt like people dressed for themselves and not everyone else.  I did NOT like it that there was not a variety of ethnicity.  There were over 100 people present, and I saw one man who appeared as though he might be Hispanic or Native American and one boy who was African American.  Once during the sermon, the pastor referenced race in order to pointedly identify a criminal as African American, although that was completely irrelevant to the story.  (Every time I am seriously tempted to include profanity in a post, it is about a church, but seriously, for the pastor to do that detracted from any positive in his message.  And probably explains the lack of diversity more than it doesn't.)

The music, well, bless their hearts.  Probably the least said about that the better.  They did sing "Jesus Loves Me" for one of the hymns, including a second verse that I don't remember hearing before.  The message was better than some I have heard where the pastor clearly wasn't prepared and just got up and rambled for awhile and then relied on the worship team to pull him out of it whenever he got stuck, but it didn't make me think or feel anything (other than to critique that one aforementioned reference), and he read it in a droning rocking horse rhythm that rose and fell regardless of the content, which made it hard not to tune out.

On the plus side, I LOVED the responsive readings, the creed and prayers, and the communion service.   Also, there was a feeling of family and affection among all the members there--I got the strong impression that these people do life together, not just church.  When we arrived, they had boxes of children's activity kits stacked to hand out to any families with kidlets, and there was a constant whispering and wriggling from all the children present.  Not in a distracting way, but just in a normal, real-life way.  My nine year old loved the children's church and has asked a dozen times to go back.  That is a first, and is very important to me.

I don't particularly want to go back, although I might for my daughter.  I just hate that the idea of meeting with my brothers and sisters in Christ comes with such a deep heaviness and feeling of discouragement.

Where, oh where, is my group of people who love Jesus and actually want to treat all people the way they would like to be treated? 
 


6 comments:

Elin Hagberg said...

Does the church only have one pastor? Could it be a mismatch between this man and you but there are others you might like better? If your child liked it I think it is worth a couple more times to be sure if it could work or not. My church is not perfect but there is something there that make me feel happy to go there and I can overlook the things I don't like.

Momma in Progress said...

Yes, this. We kind of "gave up" on finding a church home a while back, so we haven't attended regularly in a while. I would really like to give it another try, though. We have attended a UMC in the past, but we seem to always be drawn back to an ELCA Lutheran congregation. Hubby is going to be around several weekends in a row, so we may make another attempt. It does get to the point, however, where I start to think all I'm doing is trying to keep my own kids on task and quiet (or am out in the hall with A) so then what's the point? Sigh.

Kelly said...

Hmmm...if you find it please let me know! I haven't been very diligent about even trying in the past several years myself, and small children are a good excuse, of course.

I have been thinking finding a church active in social justice causes would be a good idea, because it's something I would like to be more involved in and it is evidence of exactly the kind of thing you are looking for (and sadly rare I think among many churches).

And I admit I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. Love to you Dulce!

Olivia said...

We struggled for the first 7-8 years of our marriage to find a church where we feel at home. We joined the Episcopal church in 2008 and love it. Our new church in SC is Anglican and both churches have the same type service. I will pray that God shows you where you need to be.

Hippie Housewife said...

Oh Dulce, I so understand. I'm sorry you're going through this too. I've gotten to the point where I don't even want to think about it anymore. Too many awful things, too much discouragement and disappointment, too many fruitless attempts Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.

Praying for both of us that we would find a place to fellowship with part of the body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Www.lds.org you can find a mtg house on the website to go check it out!