Church Shopping: Faithfully Seeking Community

Finding a church is a lot like shopping for a good pair of jeans. You want to them to be comfortable and they should fit in all the right places. Said jeans should make you feel confident and they should be flexible in that, you could wear them with anything. You can trust that those jeans are always there for you, on the good days, but especially on the bad days when you need a little boost. Much like those magic jeans in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, you want to be able to share those jeans with those around you and hope that those jeans fit them just as well, and make them feel just as good. You want those great jeans to last, and you certainly do not want to have to replace them every three months or so.

My relationship with God has been a 32 year journey. Even before I knew God I know for sure that my parents were praying to Him. Both were raised in Roman Catholic families and they raised us Catholic as well. The Church itself is very structured and ritual driven. However, growing up Air Force meant a unique religious, ever-changing, experience. Because of our military lifestyle we moved about every two years, and with each move, we attended a new church along with a new Sunday school. Religion served as a backbone for our family, guiding house rules and traditions, as well as establishing a sort of home base. Yes, we lived all over the world, but Church, for the most part, remained the same. Something familiar, something that we belonged to. Something we knew. It is easy to stay involved with God if it is something you do as a family, but easy to stray from once you become an “adult”. I drifted from the Church when I left for college. For about 14 years I attended church for weddings and Christmas. I still believed and prayed, but I no longer felt that my faith needed to be expressed only in Church on Sunday mornings. I began to question the whys and the hows. I wanted to know more, to experience more, and so I did.

I have attended many different Church services over the years. In a huge cathedral to a small mass on the beach. I have attended a mass where only latin was spoken or spanish. I have been to southern churches and northern churches, churches on military bases, or in the middle of farmlands. I have attended a sunrise Baptist service on a mountain top. My husband and I were married under a tree by a Methodist deacon, and sent my daughter to preschool at a Lutheran church. During my time in Utah I explored the Mormon culture and toured the grounds of the Salt Lake Temple. Because of our travels, I have accumulated friends of all faiths, and those who do not believe at all. I have taken a world religions class and have studied Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. I find myself reading books and blogs written by Christian women, and listening to them on podcasts in the car. I cannot get enough rich religious knowledge. I also LOVE science. Part of what draws me in, is the history of it all. Some people look at the Bible and think, “holy religious text”, or ‘subjective fiction”, but I tend to look at the Bible as a great history. Because if nothing else, there is so much to be learned about global living and culture within its pages.

My daughter is about to turn 7. She has begun asking questions about God and the bible, and I have felt such a strong need to get back into a Church. Not only for her, but also for myself and my husband. We are ready to connect on a new level as a family to God and our community. So about two months ago, we began our hunt for the perfect pair of jeans. And while they didn’t necessarily need to be one size fits all, I was really hoping they would be. I was emotional after attending mass for the first time in a while. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I wanted to make sure we found the right church. It was certainly not about the building or the proximity to our home, but I needed to feel a specific feeling. I needed to feel welcomed. I needed to feel a connection to God AND to those around me. I wanted it to be a place where my daughter would go to Sunday school and grow up. Where my husband and I could make friends with people of the same age. A place we could bring family members and out of towners. A part of our family that we can share with each other and others, and one that would strengthen our established traditions and beliefs. It might be wrong to phrase it like this but we are currently Church shopping. We have been to three different Catholic churches, all in varying size and demographics and this morning we attended a contemporary Christian church.

I admit, I went in with a little skepticism and judgement in my heart. However, it is not in my nature to keep my mind closed or avoid experiences that may challenge what I think I know. It was a jarring experience, one I am still processing. Although strikingly different in almost every way, the message was relatable, and I felt welcomed all the way through. I am not sure if that was the church for us, we may go back, we may keep exploring, but I am so thankful to that church for treating us like we belonged there. That was a gift, and one not easily found. I will keep searching until I find the spiritual community we are looking for, but in the meantime, I know that church is not about where you go on Sunday morning. It is about kindness and generosity, and continued faith that God knows what he is doing.

Thank you for reading, L.

Do you have a similar experience or something to share? Please do so in the comment section below!

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