I haven't posted about our family's church search in quite some time.
We had made the decision to leave Mega-Mart Evangelical Church in January of this year. One month later I received my breast cancer diagnosis. Things got a little hectic as our family kicked into survival mode.
We visited several churches at first, but eventually decided to stick with a small United Methodist church once my diagnosis and treatment options became more complicated. Circumstances weren't optimal for carefully finding a church home.
At first, this seemed like a wise choice. We settled into this small church and enjoyed not having to think about the whole thing for a while. Our kids acclimated and seemed content. DH and I, on the other hand, struggled with attending. The actual content on Sunday mornings left a lot to be desired. The preaching was "bible lite"; not much substance and a few worn-out cliches.
That sounds really harsh, and maybe it is. The pastor is a nice enough person. It's not a lack of sincerity that undercuts his teaching.
Still, the superficiality of the messages seemed to run through the entire church. We tried several times to integrate into a Sunday School class with depressing results. The people were very nice, but no one had leadership of the class. The entire hour would be spent chit-chatting or debating about whose turn it was to lead that morning. No one was prepared. No one wanted to be prepared.
That happens from time to time in any church. Here, it happened on multiple Sundays. The class was floundering.
The most excruciating moment for me came during a particular Sunday morning service. The pastor was sick and the worship leader/music director was giving the message. I squirmed in horror while he related an old urban legend, which he received as an e-mail, as proof of God's control and care of the universe--The missing day/hour of earth time.
What could be worse than promoting a completely fictitious story from the pulpit?(ok, atheists/agnostics, I don't want any jokes about how that happens every Sunday.)
As we have wrestled with what we are looking for in a church, I have been having my own spiritual upheavals. Much of my thinking about what the purpose of a church is, and what one should expect from church, has changed. I find myself leaning more and more towards a sacramental view of communion and baptism, and away from the purely symbolic view that my Baptist/non-denominational background has taught me.
This is not particularly new to me. I have always thought that more emphasis should be placed on these two rites, than what is traditionally done in evangelical circles. I just didn't know what to do with my thoughts about it, or even realize that some of my beliefs were affirmed in more liturgical churches.
Not proudly, I will admit that I always viewed liturgical churches as dry, dead, and probably liberal. They were probably barely even Christian.
Someone should have slapped me with a cold fish.
Liturgy can be dry. It can be boring. It can be rote.
When approached with faith, it can be extremely meaningful and worshipful.
Now I have two sides of myself in constant debate. My non-denominational, evangelical ways have been so ingrained in me, that even as I reject a portion of them, it is painful. My leaning toward a sacramental, liturgical view of things is requiring a major paradigm shift. I am left somewhere in the middle trying to discern which path to take.
It's uncomfortable and a little breath-taking all at the same time.