Monday, February 21, 2011

When is it time to emotionally disconnect...from church?

I don't do change well.  This is no surprise to anyone who knows me.  So when Luke and I left our home church to go to College it was very very hard for me.  Actually, hard is a major understatement.  Changing churches was like cutting a major organ out of my body.

Let me explain.  I had been an active member of this church for over 10 years when we left.  I had come to faith in the youth group, I had led Biblestudy groups, I made some of the best friendships of my life at this church.

When we moved churches we moved to a church that was different in every possible way to the one we had left.  Gone were my comfort barriers: my friends, my teachers, my leaders.  Gone was the accustomed style of worship, and engagement with the Scriptures.  Gone even was the local area I had grown up in.

I was initially excited about starting at a new church.  I knew it was going to be different.  But I had no conception of just how different it would be.  At the new church the form of worship was alien, there was no guarantee that we would theologically agree with many of the congregation, the music was difficult.  Our minister was awesome and did everything he could to make us fee welcome and at home.  But it didn't work. For two years I lived in my own little version of Egypt.  I told myself that it was ok, that at the end of College we could go back 'home' and it would all be the same as it was.  I held onto my 'home' church as hard as I could despite the changes I saw there (services changing a bit, people moving on), emotionally I had not let go yet.

After two years, we finished our time at the difficult inner city church.  We moved to a smaller semi-rural village church.  It was a wonderful place that welcomed us with open arms, had people who loved Jesus and weren't afraid to show it.  It was a place where I made many good friends, where I was looked after by older Christians and enabled to grow in wisdom both as a worker and as a mother.  And still I held on to 'home' as 'home'.  I had not yet disengaged from my original church even though I did not go to a service in two years, even though I barely saw my friends there.

And this year, we made the biggest move yet:  leaving College, leaving a very homelike church, leaving the metro area even.  We have moved to a rural church with a small but incredibly faithful congregation who are keen to welcome us and look after us.

This last weekend I was visiting family in the leafy north.  I visited our most recent church which was such a joy!!! Many friends to catch up with and news to hear and share.  Ministries to discuss, and rejoice in!!

In the evening I visited my 'home' church.  I was struck immediately but how few people there I knew by sight.  True it is a transient and young congregation, but still.  I was struck also by some logistical changes (not worth discussing), and as usual really enjoyed the teaching.

But I thought later that I missed the church as it was when I was still a regular; the friends I saw weekly and the deep friendships which have of necessity shallowed with time and lack of investment.  I missed the combination of people I knew and loved, who gelled in a certain way, who responded in a certain way.  I had been emotionally 'hanging on' to a reality that had changed beyond recognition, and to be fair, hadn't existed anywhere but in my mind for some time.

It was a very sad realisation that the 'home' I had been so tightly holding on to is no longer there to return to.  The faces have changed, the people have moved on, but the message remains.