I’ve met so many refugees from church recently. We are starting to find each other. We are all people who went to church for many years because we love Jesus. We left church because we weren’t finding him there.
So many of us feel hurt by church. We were made fun of or silenced. We were mocked for our gifts and talents. It seems that all we were wanted for was our money. We were expected to sit down and shut up and listen to the minister and pay our tithes and then go home and be equally passive. If we read the Bible for ourselves and asked questions we were discouraged. We knew in our hearts that this wasn’t right. We knew that God wanted more of us.
We tried to make it work in church. We volunteered for more activities. We were on committees. We were in several different groups. We were active. We were the first at the church and the last to leave on Sunday morning.
But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for us, and it wasn’t enough for God. We were trying to make it work.
So we left. Some of us left the churches we’d put a lot of time and money into. Some of us left the churches that we were raised in, that our families still go to.
Several of us have found each other in a circle gathering. We share time together, and we are honest and open. Each person gets to talk, and every person listens. This is so different from church as we know it.
But for me, there is one thing missing. We don’t invite Jesus into it.
This isn’t an interfaith gathering. We are refugees from church, remember? We are people who left church because we couldn’t find Jesus there. While many of us think that Buddha and Rumi are enlightened beings and we like to share their quotes, we are still afraid in these gatherings to invite Jesus into it.
Why is this? Have we thrown out the baby with the bathwater? Are we afraid to bring Jesus into our circle because we associate Jesus with the people we left? If people are hateful, they don’t have Jesus. If there is love, then Jesus is there. If there was love at our last church, we would have stayed.
We left because we felt undervalued, underappreciated. We left because we were silenced. We left because we knew that the car that is church was going off the road and to stay in it would have meant we were going to go off the cliff with it. We left because we’d rather walk towards what is right than go quickly towards what isn’t.
So while we are reevaluating what church is, what community is, we aren’t taking the Guide along with us. We aren’t inviting Jesus into our circle, into our hearts.
I’m considering hosting my own circle, and I want to have communion. From all I’ve read of the words of Jesus and from my personal prayer time I’ve realized that you don’t have to be ordained to do this. That is yet another method of controlling people. Jesus didn’t create the institution of priests. Jesus did away with all of that and gave the power to everybody, with no distinctions. Jesus made us all equal.
I’m learning more and more about Judaism, and it is amazing how diluted the Christian communion service is. It is simply a Sabbath meal at the dinner table. It has been boiled down to the bread and the wine. There are two candlesticks as well. The chalice and the paten are the Kiddush cup and the saucer. It is like Christians are playing house. The congregation doesn’t know about the Jewish roots of this ritual.
I’m thinking about making it as inclusive as possible – having kosher grape juice and gluten-free matzo. While I’d love to serve actual wine, it isn’t fair to exclude those people who are in recovery. While I’d love to serve challah, the bread that is served at the Sabbath meal, it isn’t fair to those who are gluten intolerant. And while some churches will have a separate line for those people who are gluten intolerant, and tell those in recovery to let the cup pass them by – that isn’t fair. We all need to share the same bread and wine. When you exclude someone, you are saying they aren’t the same. When someone has to exclude themselves for health reasons, they are making themselves stick out. If the elements of the meal are safe for everybody, then everybody is welcome and everybody is equal.
And that is really important.