Sunday, June 22, 2014

some thoughts on Church

This summer I’m looking for a church. And I don’t know if I’m looking for a new church or a new liturgy or a new denomination, to be honest. Last year on Good Friday my home church of nine-or-so years held a Tenebrae service.  Since that night I've known I wouldn't stay and I had a feeling that the evangelical nondenominational culture probably wasn’t where I was going to end up. It made me terribly sad, that night, and it still makes me sad. I love my church. I was deeply invested there, so many people there invested in me, cared for me, challenged me, gave me opportunities to serve and watched me grow.
I moved away for school and immediately found a church that I love. Every Sunday I meet up with a group of friends and we walk to church together in the green grass of a park, through a neighborhood with a pomegranate tree and an orange tree, up a steep hill and into the cool white and wooden sanctuary of Redeemer church.  I love it there. It’s like coming home after a long trip, like diving into cool water when you’ve sweated for hours in the hot sun, like taking a long drink of water when you have waited with thirst. It has made for me a reality the words “come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I learned there for the first time the power and significance of the table of the Eucharist and its celebration. I experienced the relief of silence and private prayer in the setting of worship. I understood the power of scripture as I heard it read on its own week after week, a hundred different voices. For the first time in my life I heard the words of the celebration of Eucharist spoken over me by a woman, and the elements blessed by her voice, and it remains a sweetly poignant moment in my memory. I heard the people singing, in that church, and the elders praying for the people, and the children crying and laughing and murmuring -- the heartbeat of an alive people.
I have discovered that I love pews. That there are hymns with power to move me that worship songs never had. That I love simplicity. That I need to learn to listen, and it is hard for me to do that in a “louder” way of doing church.
This past semester, things got crazy. I was playing piano at a Lutheran church every few Sundays for a job, and I had a handful of Sunday concerts that made it impossible for me to attend the 10:30AM service. I spent months away from the church that I had grown to love and I felt the absence keenly. I was soul-sick. I was hungry and thirsty for it, to be there, to walk with those dear people, to sit in the pew, to hear the words of the elders speaking, and the people singing, and the children laughing, and the guitar and the violin and the piano together playing, and the declaration of scripture over my weary soul and the celebration of Eucharist together, new life, thanksgiving, celebration. Rest.

I don’t know where I’ll end up, here.  I have been visiting an Anglican service but I don’t know yet if I’ll remain. If I could find a clone church of Redeemer only in Illinois, I would probably go for that.  In the meantime, the Anglican liturgy is fairly close to what I’ve grown used to and so I’m giving it a chance.
This year my understanding of God changed.  A person rose up and broke through all my ideas and conceptions and structures of understanding and I experienced a God who is more real than I ever apprehended, more dynamic and huge and great and holy. More near. More loving.  More abundantly full of grace. And it came from listening, from the experience of stillness and quiet and rest that I found, for that listening changed everything. That silence.  And I guess you could say that I am looking for a church that will help me to cultivate that in my life. I learned this year that you can walk away from church with the exact same set of facts about your life and yet feel your soul ordered and at rest. Feel it quiet. I need that quiet, that restfulness, and I’m looking for it. May God give me the mercy to find it as I search.

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