I went to church last week.
Not really unusual, I know. But since I haven’t attended church for nearly 2 years, it was a big deal for me.
What I found disappointed me, yet it didn’t surprise me.
Having been ‘out of the loop’ for a period of time made me accutely aware of the extent to which the church is really only for the initiated.
There is a different language–it’s cliched and exclusive to those in the know. There were so many assumptions made–assumptions that everyone would know and agree with certain key points of doctrine, assumptions that everyone would have an understanding of what ‘worship’ is, assumptions that everyone is straight, middle class, and Christian.
There is strange music-. At thgis particular service, surprisingly for a Evangelical church, no ‘pop Christian’ songs (a-la-Hillsong) were sung–or at least none I could recognise. The music was dull, uninspiring, repetitive, and, after standing for 25 minutes ‘worshipping,’ my middle-aged feet really couldn’t take a lot more. To make matters even more confusing, the ‘worship’ leader had so much intensity and so little charisma (or joy, for that matter) and her face ached with angst when she prayed.
It really wasn’t a happy place. While we knew a few people and had good interactions before and after the service, those on stage weren’t welcoming. Those in the congregation weren’t joyful. It seemed like everyone was trying a little too hard to impress. The happiest person I saw was a lady who mistook us for someone else (I think she had dementia) and, when she realised this, it didn’t seem to matter at all.
As we climbed into the car for the trip home, my wife and I exchanged disappointments and deflated looks. Tears welled up. How is it that these few hours had turned into a cup of sadness which we both felt we could not bring ourselves to drink? Could it be that we have moved past what once was a taken-for-granted weekly ritual? Are we that far removed that we can’t even entertain the idea of getting back into a Sunday morning religious routine? Has our worldview shifted so far that the thought of subjecting ourselves to an hour-and-a-half of Evangelicalism provokes such intense emotion in us?
I’ve been brought up going to church.
We raised our family in church.
We were actively involved in all aspects of church life and used our gifts to grow and nurture our local church.
We are grateful for the friends we all made and the personal growth we all experienced in that community. (At the same time, it hasn’t escaped our attention how many we have never heard from since we haven’t been frequenting our regular house of worship.)
I’ve also had it drilled into me all my life that going to church isn’t about us but about what we can bring to the community and what we can give to God.
I’m not sure we can give anything to this community and certainly have no inclination nor motivation to invest in a view of God that we find at odds with all we have come to know and experience regarding love and truth and the nature of our amazing universe.
We are not who we were two years ago. It’s beginning to dawn on me that we actually weren’t that far then from where we are now, but we denied it, white-washed it, mislabelled it for the sake of our family, our friends, and our community.
We still value these circles of relationship and long for the friendship and community. But I don’t think, at least for the time being, that we will be finding it again in a church.