It’s Sunday morning. Church time. Or would be church time if I was still going to church. Instead I’m sitting here drinking coffee and writing a blog post. The guilt still nags at me, like a good Jewish mother. Even though it’s been almost 5 years that we attended a church regularly, the guilt still nags at me.
Old habits die hard, I guess. Not that I wanted this one to die. Just the opposite, actually. For the first year or two after leaving the Very Evangelical Church I fervently, feverishly searched for a new church for our family. I researched the possibilities online, narrowed them down, and visited the ones I thought might work. I’m in the South. There’s *lots* to choose from. I tried to be realistic. I wasn’t expecting to find one right away. I wasn’t expecting to find a perfect fit. However, I *was* expecting to find one – eventually.
Well….there was one factor in my church hunt that I forgot to take into consideration. Me. My newly open, questioning self doesn’t resonate well (if at all) with the old church model. Like trying to stuff a square peg in a round hole, I kept finding the old adage to be uncomfortably true – “Wherever you go, there you are.” I kept *noticing* things. Things like dying congregations who were desperately rallying the troops just to keep the church building open and functioning. Things like new church plant congregations which were basically personality-cults centered around a charismatic preacher. Many of these were also Nepotism Central – with father as the preacher and various family members filling the other positions of leadership. I had been in one of these monstrosities twice now, and vowed never to darken the doorstep of another again.
I began to see, in some ways for the first time, exactly how much many churches (at least in my immediate area) are truly like families – dysfunctional families. In one or two cases, the dysfunction was obvious enough to be almost a miasma hanging over the congregation. Ick. How could I in good conscience subject my family, my children, to that?
I’ve attended churches so big that a person was practically just a number, and churches so small that everyone had to wear half a dozen leadership hats just to keep the doors open. I realized I was just….DONE. Finished with the whole outdated, outmoded thing.
I knew I was burned out when I left. That was *why* I left. But now I was discovering that I was burned out on more than just service to the church. I was burned out on the whole idea of pledging all of one’s (scant) free time, not to mention money, to an institution that seemed to take more than it ever gave.
This new spirituality, this newborn calling within me, doesn’t fit anymore within four walls, no matter how ancient or modern.