Our Year Without Church: A Change
The Beginning: A Relief When we first stopped going to church I thought it would be temporary. It would just be a little breather to regroup, heal, and refocus. It felt good, refreshing. It felt like a good decision. Even most people we talked to about it (including a christian councilor we saw) said it was perfectly fine for us to have a little break from church and would be good for us. At the beginning it felt freeing to just stop pretending and stop going. For the year or so before this we hadn't really been going consistently anyway and hadn't given any of ourselves to that church. We said it was our church, pretended it was our church, but it wasn't really and it was nice to finally admit that and just stop going. It was also nice to not look for something new. I didn't want to look and just feel discouraged and disappointed in my expectations.
The Middle: Guilt
After a while the relief left and I started to feel guilt. Ok, taking a little break from church was fine, but now it had been long enough that it didn't seem so much like a short break, it seemed like it was time to start going to church again. I didn't really want to, I didn't feel ready, but I felt like it couldn't be right for us to go THIS long without church.
If we had been living in one stable location, the guilt would have gotten to me and this is when we would have started looking for a church and probably ended up just going somewhere because of the guilt instead of because I wanted to or because we found someplace we really fit. But, thankfully we were in a transitional stage and location, so I sat with the guilt. And something started to happen...the guilt started to lessen and another feeling started to grow...
Today I miss church. There's a growing part of me that wants to go and looks forward to finding a church home once we move up to Seattle. I miss having that weekly touch point with God and community. I don't know what that's going to look like right now, and honestly I don't want to rush into anything. Maybe it just looks like going to church wherever Bryan's family or friends go for a while, so that we can quickly get acclimated back into a church community. Or maybe it looks like taking our time (perhaps even another year) to explore churches and theologies, trying someplace new most every week so that we can really figure out what we believe and where we want to invest ourselves. Whatever we decide I think it will definitely mean showing up open to God using whatever he wants to use in the place that we are.
We didn't plan to go a whole year without church and there have been many weeks when I've questioned our decision to stop. At times I've let the guilt win and we've had the occasional Sunday at a church (3 times to be exact). But, I'm glad now that we didn't rush back into weekly attendance prematurely. I'm glad that we stopped going to church, because now for the first time in a VERY long time I really WANT to go to church.
Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman