Goodbye Church, Hello God

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My husband and I sat with hands on our forehead, bleary-eyed in front of our computer screens late Saturday night googling local churches to attend the next morning. The house was freshly out of boxes (that mostly I unpacked) as my husband blitzed through a week of orientation to his new job as an Assistant Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

“Does anyone have child care?” I bemoaned.

“Yes, this conservative one does,” My husband smirked. “Look how big it is!”

I stared at the picture of 50 somethings holding microphones and guitars and felt my stomach turn sour.

“Why are the churches with black and white answers so big?”

“And this LGBT friendly one apparently just sold their building to pay off their debts.”

“Look! The cute Episcopal church in town says it invites children to worship and welcomes hearing them make joyful noises.”

“That just means the small congregation will stare at the new folks while we juggle our three kids.”

I started digging deeper and reading church minutes. “This one is still arguing about the gay issue every week. They have unanimously decided not to allow same sex blessings.”

“Look at the coming attractions on this page!” Husband, David giggled as he saw my blank screen.

My favorite was the church that posted new comer pictures and bios and gave a shout out to the techies because the young families found them on a google search.

After nearly an hour of searching, the two of us buckled over laughing at the absurdities, at the suddenly tenable thought that we might never find a church where we belong.

“Jess–we’re not really church type folks,” David’s eyes sparkled and suddenly I wanted to cry. Because I really wanted to be a church type folk. I felt called after seminary to help reinvigorate the church. Something big happened to me in college: I experienced the love of God when I was in a seriously bad place and I thought, “It’s real! It’s so cheesy, but God is real and God is really full of love!” And so I spent my college years studying religion, philosophy and psychology, I went to seminary and I worked for ten years in the Episcopal church in the Chicago area trying to share God’s love and my love with children and youth.

Some people call this new phase “burn out” but I’m not in a spiritual crisis. I wonder if I am called to leave the church (after a few years of wondering if I wanted to pursue ordination). I share many of the same complaints as the Millennial’s and the None’s: I can’t stand the politics either–yes money does matter. Yes, there are power and turf struggles. Yes, some people won’t change. Yes, even jerks go to church and don’t know how to love and don’t want to learn how. And it’s especially hard when you catch a glimpse of the underbelly and the under-the-mask realities that seem bigger than Jonah’s whale. And because Christians (and politicians) prefer to play “nice” the healthy conflict that is necessary for growth is often avoided. But that’s not my main source of angst (I know these are not merely church issues, but life issues).

Truth be told: church stopped being a place I could easily connect with God. There was another place that was helping me doing that so much better. And that place was the yoga studio.

I began to realize that my body always felt sick on Sunday mornings. It was as if a woman’s body–my body–wasn’t fully welcome. I worshiped from the head up. I tried to transform all the masculine, roman, patriarchal, warrior, language in my head. It was enough to slay me in the spirit or make my eyes spin causing me to look demon possessed (which was a real job hazard). I worked to compartmentalize and transcend all the messiness of my life in some far away forgotten place often labeled Forgiveness Land so I could find the crystal clear answers and the Perfect God.

In my yoga practice I began to accept the difficulties and honest complexities of where I am at as a human being. And where I am at is always one place: I am in my body. And in order to be fully embodied requires the tending of old wounds, deep fears, and for me, sexual healing from past abuses. And these are things that the church has been unable to help me with. (Let’s be fair, the church has only had a relatively small amount of time in the last 2,000 years to incorporate women’s perspectives on God into our own language and symbols for great advances to make their way into corporate worship.)

Advent and Christmas seasons celebrate that Christ is born in the flesh. And not just of the flesh, but in our own flesh God is born. We all are called to bear God (the many faces and gifts of God–even the feminine form of God). And in order for me to do that better I have to continue to practice being present in each moment and learn to live fully in my body, in all the suffering and all the joy. I need my whole body to worship.

Last Sunday we happily attended The Church of the Holy Comforter and slept in. It was a true spiritual experience.

I start my yoga teacher certification program in a few weeks. I am looking forward to creating new liturgies, divine music and sacred spaces for God to dwell with us and more fully in us.

And we’ll keep looking for a church where we can find a community to grow with (don’t worry Grandma!).

The Divine in me greets and honors the Divine in you.

Namaste

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13 Comments

Filed under american society, christianity, church, culture, episcopal, feminism, philosophy, religion, spirituality, youth ministry

13 responses to “Goodbye Church, Hello God

  1. I’ve had a difficult time finding a church locally, as well. I really appreciated a colleague who admitted a few years ago that it took their family 3 years of searching before they found a home. I have a few recommendations, if you like, but I’m also really interested in why this region has so few churches that fit for folks like us.

  2. Couple thoughts,

    1. You sound like you actually do love the church a lot. I don’t know you but my guess is that a person who has experienced what you have can never “really” leave.

    2. You guys are going through a lot of transition so taking time to figure out where you are going to (or if you are going to) put down roots should take time. That seems wise.

    3. Two parts here. The Eucharist service can never be the entirety of our spiritual experience for all the reasons you bring up and more that I would offer as a man and others that people with different needs and perspectives would offer. The proclamation of God’s Kingdom on Earth was Jesus’ work, surely it is ours? God’s will be done in the yoga studio as in heaven. Part two: I do think that there is spiritual food to be had at the Eucharist table that we do not find elsewhere. So I would encourage you not to fast the bread and wine too long.

    4. I really liked reading this and I’m totally bummed that you and your husband moved FROM Chicago where I am. I think our families might have been good friends.

    • Dear Lane,

      Thank you for taking the one to write such a thoughtful response. You are right: I’ll never be able to really leave. And I do wish our families would have known one another in Chicago too! You’re always welcome in Fargo in you ever make it up this way!

  3. Jessica, very well written and I’m honored to be included! If you weren’t so far up North I’d insist on a coffee date 🙂

  4. DZ

    Mom and I call that a day off. Methodists call that Sunday morning breakfast. Lutherans call that guilt. Catholics call that a sin. Episcopals hope you still tithed. Free people call that blogging. Free indeed. Just breathe.

  5. Pingback: Living the Tension | earth creecher

  6. Rachael

    It took us nearly a year to find a church home, we visited many churches and attended a couple for several months before deciding. There is no rush. The Episcopal church here is VERY small. There are only 6 kids in Sunday School. I love the Episcopal Church service but the community there just was not a good fit for us right now. We landed in a wonderfully supportive Presbyterian Church with an awesome children’s program. Give yourselves time to find the right place for you and your family. Thinking of you and miss you greatly. Keep blogging. I love reading:)

  7. Glad to know I’m not the only one translating “the masculine, roman, patriarchal, warrior, language in my head.”….and yes, it’s exhausting.

  8. I’m in a similar place, if I may be so bold as to presume. Well, I shouldn’t presume. I’ll just say that it is almost impossible for me to get myself to go to church unless I’m actually preaching and presiding. And not because I have lost any faith. Not because I don’t care about the church. But because almost every time I go, I come home angry, frustrated, aggravated. The cost of going is not worth paying.

    I’ve come to accept that for me, for now, the church is the mystical reality of the gathered people of faith throughout time and space, not the place I go to on Sundays. I feel that I still participate in the Church, even though I infrequently go to church.

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