Monday, November 3, 2008
No Good Title but It's a Long One
I have no title for today's post. I'm not entirely sure where I will end up with all of this. A lot is weighing on my heart these days. I feel like I am losing or have lost my church home. I grew up a Missouri Synod Lutheran. My grandfather is a retired Lutheran pastor so the faith was a very important part of the family culture. In high school, I branched out and began attending youth group with a friend- I forget what denomination it was but it definitely wasn't Lutheran. My step-dad brought Catholicism to the family. He was and is a very devout and serious Catholic. So church was part of my childhood, my development. My relationship with God has always been strong, even and especially when I have faced trauma, chaos, and even what I consider to be Hell. In college, I stepped away from church. I began to very seriously question what had been taught to me. I was meeting, for example, gay people who went to church and loved God and it made no sense to me that I should believe that these God-loving individuals should be judged to damnation in hell because of love. I started reading and researching and talking. And I stopped going to church. I graduated from college and still didn't go to church. I moved away from my hometown and finally felt ready to begin looking. Again, my faith remained strong. My personal relationship with Christ remained in tact. It wasn't until Easter weekend of 2004 that I found something that finally seemed right. I had become friends with a man in a play (Daniel) and he told me about his church. He was as open minded and liberal as I was so I figured this church had something to offer. So I went to service on Good Friday. And kept going after that. I sought counseling from the pastor after my miscarriage and knew I had found a church home. I wasn't ready to commit myself fully but I was ready to at least attend regularly. Not long after, I decided to become a member of the church. It was a big and important decision for me. My children were baptized in this church. I've envisioned my kids growing up with this church family. But I feel like my foundation has been rocked. My church is a new church and is in desperate need of funds. I give monthly, as much as I can, and extra when I have it. They are starting a 3 year capital campaign. They are asking for people to go beyond tithing (regular giving, usually a percentage of one's income) and into sacrificial giving (finding something additional, giving up something in order to give more to the church for a committed period of time). I struggled with this because it has been difficult for me to get to a point where I give what I feel I can afford each month and there have been months where giving is harder on the budget than others. But I understand that it needs to be done. And in these hard times, there are still folks who are doing a lot of discretionary spending and have more options for making some sacrifices. It would be a struggle for me to find something to sacrifice- I don't do daily Starbucks spending, I don't color my hair, I don't have a cleaning woman (all examples of discretionary spending according to the guy heading up the campaign). But I can work through the money thing. Several years ago, in ongoing efforts to continue the growth of the church, we started a second service. Initially, the early service was just the same as the second service. For the first year, there was growth and many families seemed to be choosing to attend that earlier service. However, our pastor felt that we were missing a segment of the population. The services offered were both contemporary services with no hymnals, lots of contemporary music with the band, no liturgy, etc. So we designed a classic service for that earlier time slot. Hymnals, a smidgen of liturgy. Attendance plummeted. The wanted to redesign the service after the second year and I joined the committee to help. Communication was strongly lacking and I ended up only attending 2 meetings. But the service didn't change much. They asked the congregation to commit to attending early service as a mission. Commit to it for 6 months to help it grow. I did. It was a small service. Very small. But it was intimate and we knew everyone there. And I had just recently begun to see some new faces, new families. A sign of potential growth. Slow, of course. I didn't realize, until last week, just how important that early service was to me. As part of this campaign... in efforts to pursue further growth in the church... they did away with our early service. And gave one week of warning. We are sitting in church on Sunday and at the end of service, our pastor announced that we will only have the later service starting the following week. I was stunned. And shocked. Crushed. I was having a very hard time making sense of it and was very surprised at how strong my reaction was. But I decided to stick with it, give it a chance, see how it felt. We attended church this past Sunday, the entire family. And we left early. My sadness was that we were hardly greeted by anyone- including the people who already know us. There is a big meet and greet time as part of each service. In our early, intimate service, you got to say good morning to everyone there. There was hugging and hand holding. Intimate, connected. People knew us, knew my kids. Teagan had become comfortable with these people and, on a good day, would connect and say hello. She had started to go up for the children's sermon by herself, no longer insisting that she needed Mommy with her. This past Sunday was the kick off for the big 3 year fundraising campaign. They didn't have a children's sermon. Teagan was disappointed- I had prepped her, telling her about all the kids that would be up there with her... she isn't ready to head off to Sunday School yet. She sat and colored and watched the other kids run off, watched from the outside as these other kids, who had attachments and friendships in place, skipped and laughed and "knew." Then they showed a recently produced video that is the big "selling" piece for the campaign. It was all from the second service folks. The early service people were completely skipped over. No one from "my" service had been included. This added to the hurt of "my" service being dumped. Then "church" started. Jeff got uncomfortable very quickly, as did I, because the entire service was about money. 45 minutes in and we had sung 2 songs and listened to a lot of talk about money, money, money. My church's mission is to reach out to the un-churched and de-churched. I fall into that category, as does Jeff. And this campaign is de-churching us. The decisions being made are making me feel shoved to the side. So I am conflicted. Unsure. Very sad. We actually left church early, my decision. I just couldn't bear the sadness I was feeling, the disconnectedness. Maybe a new and growing church isn't right for us? Maybe I need to find a church home that is already established and secure and that already has roots? And other random things that have added to my deep thinking and sadness... First, my daily check in of the blogs that I read brought me to Today on the Interwebs. A link to an article about slavery in the world today. Sex slaves are what the media focuses on but the problem goes deeper. According to the article... there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in history. Talk about starting the day on a depressing note. Then I pop over to The Pioneer Woman. The overwhelming Basset Hound cuteness is cheering me up. I continue to scroll down and read her entry from the weekend about her husband and daughters and the mission work they are heading off to do in the Dominican Republic with a group called Compassion, International. In the course of their work, they will get to meet the children that they actually sponsor. Very heart warming... but also depressing because of the attention drawn to the ongoing need for sponsors for children there (and all over the world). So I am in a down mood today. Not so much down. Contemplative. Seeking answers. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you saw last night that I asked for answers and I have gotten some good ones (chocolate on strawberries, glass of red wine, and yes dear being personal faves). But the answers I need have to come from within and from above. I just hope that my heart and soul are open so that I can hear them.