I picked the wrong time to change churches. How was I supposed to know how 2020 would be when I left my old church back in the spring of 2019?
My reasons for leaving are many and varied. They really don’t matter at this point. It wasn’t an easy decision since I taught a Sunday school class with people I love dearly.
I Know Church
But I was excited to take the opportunity to visit a lot of churches – different denominations and worship styles.
You see, I worked in churches for many years as either Youth Director or Director of Christian Education. I was either full or part-time staff in eight different churches, seven United Methodist and one Christian/Disciples of Christ. That meant being tied down to the place that paid my salary.
I’m a lifelong, seventh-generation Methodist, but married a Southern Baptist. Sometimes, I went to his church. I had a time in late teens and twenties when I attended charismatic fellowships and an Assembly of God. During graduate school, a class assignment was given to visit several denominations. Over the past decade, I’ve enjoyed dropping in on the services at a local Messianic congregation on Shabbat. I have spoken or lead workshops at many, many more churches for the past five decades. I know church.
Where is God showing up?
So why this new urge to go church hopping?
Since my denomination has been in such upheaval, I wanted to find some respite. I wanted to see how the Lord is working among His other people these days. I wanted to see where He’s showing up to bless us with His presence. I wanted to see how they focused on missions, spiritual growth, and Biblical orthodoxy.
I wanted to experience where worshippers felt alive. I wanted to be there.
Psalm 122:1 A Song of Ascents. Of David. I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!“
I made a list of some denominations and non-denoms I’d never visited, as well as those with which I was familiar. I made sure to include both large and small congregations. I wanted to see how their theology was enacted and verbalized in the service. I was curious about how some were doing worship styles differently now. Where were the young people attending?
It became a quest to check these different churches off my list.
Then, I decided to extend my pursuit for a full year, but I didn’t quite reach that goal. The pandemic hit and brought it to a halt. Inside, I was screaming, “but I didn’t finish!” There are still a few others I’d like to visit in person since on-line worship doesn’t give the same vibe.
I planned to share what I learned in those ten months on this blog, then my husband had his accident, surgery, and extended recovery. So much for planning. I still want to write about the thirty-something churches, and I have pictures from most of them. I don’t want all that research to go to waste.
I joined Twitter in May 2019 and found Traci Rhoades. I have enjoyed our interactions and getting to know about her faith journey in different churches, which in many ways, is similar to mine. Her Twitter handle is @tracesoffaith . She wrote a book about her ecumenical experiences. I recommend it if you’re curious about those who are curious about our brothers and sisters of other Christian persuasions.
Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost, published in May 2020. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1640652795?ie=UTF8&n=133140011
Psa 100:2-4 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
So, What Now?
But here’s where I am now. I’ve decided which congregation I want to join. They have started back to in-person worship, with great attention to safety precautions. I’ve Zoomed their three-week new member class. They are cautiously opening up other opportunities, and I plan to find a place to serve. They were wonderfully attentive during my husband’s tenuous recovery time.
But my old friends cultivated from years of attending church, prayer group, and Bible study together were the best! That kind of support doesn’t happen overnight. And that kind of love can’t be replaced.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
My rootlessness, along with the Coronavirus, has had its consequences. I miss being part of a Sunday school class. I miss covered dish dinners. I miss seeing familiar faces of dear friends every single week in worship. That will come, but building community takes time.
I don’t regret leaving. I certainly don’t regret the things I learned in the church visits since I’ve tended to be a Cafeteria Christian, anyway.
I’ll be joining another Methodist Church and look forward to the changes we anticipate in our denomination in the coming months. Perhaps the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise in allowing time for preparing a solid foundation for this new expression of what John Wesley started.
I just have to trust God’s timing in all of this. Jesus, our Redeemer, is working all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.