So where are they going to church?
Well, they're doing "house" church.
The dramatic air finger quotes didn't stab the way they could have. And the overheard response lessened the weight.
I think we all need house church sometimes.
I didn't realize it until yesterday. I haven't thought of church - or my feelings about it - in two weeks.
What I've missed about church.
As Mat and I have shifted our lives, excluding church attendance and ministry work, we have been gifted inordinate amounts of free time. For a while, we'd wake up on Sunday mornings, having stayed in bed until 10, and shuffle downstairs for Pajama Church and breakfast. It's been a difficult but healthy separation; a much-needed rest from displaying our spirituality - our relationship with God - in a performance-driven, ritualistic way.
There is less striving these days; less measuring our hearts and squeezing them dry, hoping there is still enough blood to keep us alive. I don't worry about my salvation or whether or not a swear word escapes my lips; and I no longer look to the bible as a means to explain away or prove the validity of my beliefs. My desire to believe is all I need to consider; my interaction with the spirit pure, undaunted.
But what I've missed are the relationships that came from being a part of a church; the friends who have emerged as healthy counterparts and decided to come along for this part of our journey as willing advocates and challengers. We are no longer in proximity to these friends, and there is only so much texting and voxing and emailing that can suffice.
I'm not talking about community.
Community - as defined by American Christianity - annoys me. "Living life together" can sometimes breed more exclusion than inclusion. When I was still attending church, I fought joining small groups - the epitome of "being in community" - for three reasons:
- They felt like scheduled adult play dates with people whose only connection was the church. I didn't like the sheer amount of acquaintances I had; "friends" simply because we began first with the similarities of our belief system. I needed some non-Christian variety.
- Being on church staff, a pastor and pastor's wife, we were consistently looked to as the experts, the answer-givers; and it was always assumed we'd handle leading the prayer time. I never felt I could just be in this setting. As casual as it was supposed to be, it was just another form of work.
- Often, you are paired with others "in the same life stage" which, unfortunately, left Mat and I grossly aware of how unique our "stage" was - especially among Christian couples. Our vocal choice not to have children was a decision misunderstood and waved away, "You'll change your mind. You'd be such great parents." I'd bite my tongue, and never go back.
I've stopped missing church.
Realizing I haven't been thinking about church in the past two weeks startled me to curiosity.
I'm almost halfway through The Discovery Project and as I uncover what I believe, I have found church is an easy tradition to discard. What I believe has nothing to do with church, and how I experience God cannot be found within a church - not in the sense of attending a building every week to sit through a timed, routine program.
I can't pinpoint the moment I stopped missing church, but I do know why.
We have friended people who connect with us in basic ways, instead of around our beliefs or grand ideas, or our understanding of theology and scripture, or how we choose to view God - or what we can do for them.
I stopped missing church when I chose to accept how connected I am to every person in some way.
If I decide I am Christian at the end of this discovery process, then I will hold to the idea that I am the church. If I decide I am Christian, I might say, "Church is everywhere; every moment of every day - because God resides in us, not in a building one day a week."
There are things happening outside of church.
This week I had the pleasure of attending the debut Amplify Collective event in Seattle. I gathered with 13 other women - 11 of whom were strangers, at the time - and we dined and drank cocktails and talked about femininity. Two women facilitated the dinner, leading us through questions to discuss how we expressed our femininity, how we defined it, and why.
The caveat: we weren't allowed to say what we do, we were to only express Who We Are.
It was a beautiful display of connection; women coming together for the sole reason of being women - undefined by our jobs, our spouse or significant other, our children, or lack thereof.
My only complaint? Seattle is an hour away.
I stopped missing church because it's no longer the place for me to grow friendships and meet new people. It's not the only place I can explore my relationship with myself and God. It's not the only place I can invite people to. It's just another place.
I left Amplify thinking, "I could host a dinner party for women at a restaurant and write up some questions to create conversation."
And maybe I will.