I have a confession: I don’t regularly or actively participate in a faith community. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, as somebody who works for a religious organization and as somebody who has a (self-proclaimed) high ecclesiology, but… honestly, church has been a much more more draining experience than a life-giving one and I’m done trying to make it work.
At least for now.
Perhaps my idealism sets me up for such disappointment, and perhaps this decision reveals the individualistic nature of my “millennial” faith, and maybe that’s all true. What I know for certain is that church, as I’ve experienced it, is unhelpful to me.
That isn’t to say I’ve never had an edifying experience in church. In times of discouragement or discernment, I often return to the promises prophetically uttered by lay ministers in the charismatic church or hear a Friend’s vocal ministry bounce throughout my head and lead me into Light. But time after time, I’ve tried to find my voice in such spaces, I’ve tried to find ways to serve and grow in such communities, and it’s been pretty fruitless. And I like to think that I’m a friendly, personable guy, and somehow I’ve found it impossible to get grounded in a spiritual community.
So, again, I’m done for a little while. And I’m really okay with that.
I wasn’t always. In fact, I have spent a lot of time condemning myself for not living up to my Quakerism, or my Christianity, by being “out of community.” At a certain point, though, I just didn’t have the emotional energy to care any longer.
I still attend Quaker meeting to stay connected to Friends and to enjoy the power of corporate silent worship, but I probably pop in once a month. And I also go to various churches, to hear the Bible read and to sing hymns sung by thousands, if not millions, of saints before me. I do that even more infrequently.
Can I still claim to be Quaker, or even a Christian, when at the core of our faith is the Church? Can I still claim to follow Jesus when I am out of touch with his body? I think it’s a good question. I don’t know the answer and I don’t know if I ever will. I still dream of being in a house church, where tongue-talking, poetry reading, deep silence, delicious food, and political demonstrations are on the agenda, and I’m somehow confident that I’ll someday have that. But in the meantime, I will continue to try to bring and be the church wherever I go, and hopefully, sooner than later, I’ll find a way to sustainably, functionally, and joyfully be in community.
That being said, I know I love Jesus, and I am even more confident that he loves me. I know that I encounter the presence of God in staff meetings, when I mutter in tongues while making spreadsheets, when I see people make friends with strangers on the bus, when I watch my nephew play on my brother-in-law’s lap, and while I sip genmaicha and listen to my mother’s spiritual reflections each morning. Maybe that’s not enough, but for now, it’s what I can handle. It’s what I can do.