I want to find a church. Not just a building with a steeple and some pews, but a group of caring people brought together by their belief in a single God and a common good. I’m hungry not just for religion, but for a church family.
Lee and I went to church today. We visited the same church we’ve attended several times in the past few years, and the experience was, as usual, a mixture of the delightful and the dull. The music, while ethereal, at times reminds me of a funeral dirge. The sermons I’ve heard have been intellectual and sound, yet lacking a passion that makes me sit up and take notice.
I never realized how spoiled I was until I went to college. Until then, I’d never been a true visitor in a church. I was either the preacher’s kid in my own church, or the kid of the visiting preacher whenever dad preached at another church. From the moment I stepped inside the doors, people knew who I was and that I was there to stay so they might as well get to know me. I felt the same way. These people would be my church family, after all.
I remember being a little nervous and excited when I went to college because for the first time, I was going to find MY church. Not my family’s church, but MY church. The first time I attended a service, I was struck by the anonymity of being a true visitor. Everyone was nice, polite, some were friendly, but at the end of the service I left feeling rather alone.
I also discovered something about preachers. They’re not all like my dad. Not only do I love his style, writing, and delivery – I love his beliefs. I found that many churches weren’t as open or accepting, and that was a huge turn off. My excitement about finding MY church turned into a longing for my home church. I didn’t regularly attend in Athens, and just looked forward to visits home when I could be in a church where I belonged.
Now in Savannah, Lee and I have attended a couple of churches. One church sang the old familiar hymns I love, but from the moment the minister began preaching we both knew it wasn’t a fit. The sermon was something from the Old Testament – something about justifying killing people because they were just too sinful to be saved. What?
The church we’ve gone to the most is the one we attended again this morning. Despite the dirge music and sometimes boring sermons, the church does have something else very, very appealing. A spirit of acceptance – even a rebellious acceptance. The church separated from the Southern Baptist Convention and (gasp!) ordained women deacons. Today, just after the service had begun, a mixed race homosexual couple (I think?) came into the church. Instead of lifted eyebrows, they were greeted with smiles. The woman sitting in front of us handed her open hymnbook to them so they could join in. That’s so important to me – a church that is inclusive rather than exclusive. You don’t have to agree with what other people do, but love them anyway and leave the judging to God.
In the end, the beliefs of a church are more important to me than the hymn selection and fervor of the sermon. I’m still homesick for my dad’s church, but maybe I can still find an acceptable substitute.