I’ve been in and out of at least fifteen churches in the past two years. One is the church I grew up in, the church I attend when I am home. One was for a ten-week internship. Most of the rest have been part of the burden of moving to a new city. I’ve found myself worshipping with Presbyterians, Catholics, United Methodists, Nazarenes, Episcopalians, and people who don’t identify with any particular tradition.
Last year, a friend of mine jokingly called me an ecumenical movement.
It was funny, but I think he may have been on to something.
I’ve had plenty of reasons (some of which have been good, others not so much) for attending and leaving each church. Sometimes it was a matter of convenience—I went where I could get a ride. Other times it was a question of theology. More than once, it’s involved a move from one state to another.
I still haven’t found where I fit best in the Body of Christ. I haven’t found my place amongst all the doubts and questions and fears and culture wars, both mine and the church’s. What I have found, though, is that the God I grew up believing in is bigger and wilder than I ever dared to hope.
These days, I split my time on Sundays. I go to church with my parents in the morning, giving thanks for so many people who have known me for most of my life and still manage to love me. But when I can, and when I’m feeling up for it, I spend Sunday nights at the Episcopal Church downtown.
If you were to ask me why, I might mumble something about the sacraments at the center of the service and needing a faith that engages my body, too. Or I might tell you that the reading of scripture and praying words that have been prayed for generations makes me feel rooted when the rest of life seems like swirling chaos.
I guess if I were completely honest, though, I might tell you that I’m searching. I’m trying to find the expression of faith that allows me to hear the Spirit best. I used to think that church had to look one particular way, but now I’m learning that it is as diverse as the people of God are. I don’t hear God in the same ways as I used to, and I probably don’t hear him in the same way you do. And that’s okay.
I really like how Rachel Held Evans put it in her new book, Searching for Sunday.
Our differences can be cause for celebration when we believe the same Spirit that sings through an electric guitar, a Gregorian chant, or a gospel choir—though perhaps not at the same time!—and that we each hear the Spirit best at a different pitch.
But still, the search sometimes feels like a lonely journey. I wonder if I’m the only one asking my questions or dissatisfied with the way things have always been. I wonder if I’m the only one who sometimes doesn’t want to be in church or doesn’t feel like there’s enough space for me and my questions and doubts. Then I read a book like Searching for Sunday and remember that I am not alone. I’m not the first to walk this road, and I will not be the last.
And that’s the beauty of the church, I think. We don’t have to walk alone.
Searching for Sunday comes out tomorrow. If you order this week and submit your proof of purchase, you can get some cool freebies including an album of seven songs to go with the seven sections of the book. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s one of the most important, hopeful books I’ve read about church in a long time. Whether you know where you fit or you’re still looking or you’ve walked away, I think you’ll find some hope in Rachel’s words. I sure did!