I was on my way to new church last Sunday. It isn’t a place, it is the people. It is a group of friends have gotten together to celebrate Communion. We sing hymns, we read Bible verses, we have Communion together, and then we have a potluck afterwards and a walk. This is the second gathering, and it is going well.
But on the way, I started thinking about the old church that I belonged to. I started thinking about how hurt I was when it seemed that very few people noticed when I left. I had been there for many years and I left suddenly, with no warning. Whether they knew the story of why I left or they didn’t know the story doesn’t matter. If they were told the story that the minister was telling them then it really would sound like I needed to be checked up on. She was telling them that I was having some family problems.
Five people checked up on me. Most of the ones who did just wanted me to come back, and didn’t listen to why I left. Some thought I could fix the church’s problems from within. One listened well, and understood that being a deacon isn’t what I was being called to. I never thought I was. It is interesting that going through the deacon discernment process just put my church experience on high boil.
I gave three years of my life to that church. I was there every single Sunday. I served almost every Sunday. My name was in the bulletin nearly every week. It is like none of that happened, by the silence I got from the members of a church that prides itself on being welcoming.
I felt betrayed then and I still feel betrayed now. I don’t know whether I can trust a church again.
I didn’t want to be thinking about these things on my way to my new church, to this new gathering with friends. We’re creating a new idea of how to do church. I don’t want to feel anger about my old church but it’s teaching me a lesson.
It’s teaching me to be mindful, because people are what make up a church, and people aren’t nice and friendly all the time. And people will hurt you.
So how do you sit with that feeling when you are hurt? Do you stay? Do you go?
Nadia Bolz-Weber in her book “Pastrix” talked about this and it’s something I need to think about. She would always tell new members of her church, who were bubbling over with excitement about finally having found a really open church, that things are great now, but that will change. People will get on your nerves. Things will get awkward. This feeling that you have right now won’t always stay. But you should stay, even when that feeling goes.
It’s great to stay when it’s all good. But Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies. It is easy to love our friends. Anybody can do that. But what about the enemies? That is where it gets real.
Therefore it is also easy to love the easy times. That is important to be mindful of. If all I’m in for is the easy times and the good friends then I am not really there completely.
Jesus tells us to be with the homeless and with the broken – and we need to be with the homeless and broken parts of ourselves and with each other too. Even if we have homes, even if we are healed, we’re still broken because we’re human. We will fail ourselves, and each other. That is just part of the package deal that comes with being human. But staying – that is the hard part. Jesus calls us to stay, and he tells us that he is always with us, to the end of the age.
So for Jesus, I’ll do it. I’ll try. I’ll try to stay when it gets hard.
I’m not sure how I’ll do. When I look at my address list, I see a lot of names of people that I’ve written off, people that have harmed me with no apologies. I’ve been working on my boundaries, but while doing that I need to make sure I’m building some bridges as well as walls.
So I’m glad for those feelings I had on the way to this new church community. I’m glad that I took the time to feel out these feelings and listen to them. And I’m continuing to invite Jesus into these broken parts of myself, to heal them.