I was going to write about coffee sales in church and I’ll do that another time, but I digressed and I’ll stick with the digression.
Part of this blog is evidently going to be about my journey into the mainline church. This isn’t really my journey out of the Evangelical church–that happened longer ago than most people realize. When I finally made the break (by quitting my life and moving across the country. I’m a very loyal person. I couldn’t just leave. And I loved that church–at least most of the way through. And they really were much more forward thinking than most fundies–especially about women. But I digress.), I spent seven years wandering without a church home. The first year I was in Indiana, I went to just about every kind of mainline church that had a website. I never really found one that seemed interested in me (and maybe that’s asking for too much. I don’t know.) I came. I signed the friendship pad. I left. I did 2 Lutheran churches (Liked the liturgical aspects, didn’t feel like I could take communion because of the “real presence” deal), a Methodist (they were doing contemporary worship and sketches at the beginning of the service and it felt a little too much like “church lite” to me), a United Church of Christ (I even went back there once, but was disappointed the second time though I still remember the message.), an Episcopal church (which was not particularly friendly), the contemporary, trendy popular-with-college-students Presbyterian church (and was going to sit with a fellow grad student, but he made it clear I was not welcome in his pew. Odd moment. Didn’t bode well for me and that church though I did go back once or twice.). I was so tired of feeling distant from the churches, I tried a little Independent Christian Church (the same non-denominational denomination my parents were converted in and I had my earliest training in) and it was about the nicest church experience I had, but it was obviously fundamentalist and a little too small, and I just couldn’t do it. I was tired. I had served too hard for too many years. I needed to be fed (at least that’s my take on it. Maybe I was just lazy.) I also went to a Baptist church once because of a grad school friend and was reminded of all the reasons that wouldn’t work for me (and this was a big, contemporary, power-point-using church and I understand and appreciate that, but it’s not for me.). I went a couple times with Writer (my cousin) in the Big City (Indy–not Chi Town) to a Sunday night service at a big Presbyterian church in the suburbs. It was an easy place to hide and we were both doing that at the time, though she came out of hiding a lot sooner than I did. And on the oddest Easter of my life we went to an Episcopal church, but that’ll get a whole post sometime.
I came home for the summer without a church home, but expecting to return the next year and settle in somewhere since I was looking at around 5 more years there. And then I met Computerguy. And by the time I got back to school, I knew it was for only one more year. I still went to church occasionally and found the church I probably would have settled at–the downtown Presbyterian church that wasn’t trying to reach college students and where a fellow refugee from California and the SBC had settled with his family. (Side note: the guy at the earlier Presbyterian Church mentioned once that he and his brother had not been Baptized as infants because their mother had been raised Baptist. They were Baptized at their confirmations instead. That was nice to hear. In a different view, the guy at this church and his wife decided to have their daughters Baptized because they figured if they were going to be Presbyterian, they might as well BE Presbyterian. His parents (his dad is a minister) came, but to this day refer to it as the girls’ “dedications.” In a totally unnecessary to mention coincidence, both guys have the same first name though spelled differently.) I also went a couple times to the little Reformed Presbyterian church where a friend of mine was finding God for the first time (exciting stuff), but as wonderful as it was for her, it was way too much like what I had come out of. It was interesting for me to learn that the Presbyterians had their own conservative fundamentalist groups. This one was even non-instrumental and sang only the Psalms. Mostly, that year, when I went to church it was driving to the Big City and attending with the Writer at the on fire, alive, downtown-reclaiming Presbyterian Church (America not USA so a bit more conservative though the Writer is not, but it’s a good ‘un.) I figured as long as I wasn’t sticking around I might as well spend time with her and go to church where I didn’t have to sit alone. I’m pretty sure I would have done things differently if I’d been staying.
Fast forward to finishing school, moving back to California, and getting married. Computerguy knew I wanted to find a church and he was amenable. We did some basic church shopping, and ended up regularly attending the Presbyterian church in the next town. But we never became a part of it. And no one ever knew who we were except the pastor and (oddly enough) our genetic counselor and that’s because she was our genetic counselor (I swear more than once I passed some of these people shopping or whatever and there wasn’t even that vague flicker of possible recognition one gets from seeing a familiar if unkown face.). And that’s as much our fault as theirs–we are both introverts after all–but we tried a bit and twice we attempted to go to new members’ class and both times it got cancelled. I actually see God’s hand in that (I can flow back into Evangelicalese very easily). Computerguy wouldn’t have been ready to join and it wasn’t really the right place for us, but it was a very pleasant stop along the way. Once Bubble was born, we stopped going to church regularly. First Sunday was a chance for me to get much needed sleep and then it was a chance to study for my Qualifying Exams. So we got out of the habit and never really heard from anyone about it except one awkward meeting in the doctor’s office when I was expecting Squeak as we said something vague about not making it to church much and she said she didn’t attend there anymore and we moved quickly to the business at hand.
It was actually that awkward conversation that got me thinking about church again and really wanting to go, especially as Bubble was nearing 2. And my feeling was, if the one person (other than the pastor in the receiving line) who was friendly to us in that church was no longer there, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back. My second issue was this: even though they were a PC(USA) church and certainly believed in having women in leadership, there weren’t any who were visible. They had a woman come in and preach on Celebrate Women Sunday and they had an intern who was a woman, but she almost never did anything that I could see, so I’m not exactly sure what that situation was. So when I happened across the website for our current church (PC(USA) but in our own city) and saw that the pastor was a woman (which wasn’t necessary as long as women were visible in leadership, but it was a positive factor) and I read her welcoming statement I began to get a sense of excitement. For a month or so, I followed the church on its website and the Pastor’s blog (neither of which is kept up at this point, but they’re working on that). Finally, I casually brought it up with Computerguy (something along the lines of, I really want to go back to church and we can go back to that place we were going, but what would you think of giving this one a shot first) and he said we could give it a try. And it really worked for us. For so many reasons. I’ll probably list them out at some point, but this is already much too long. All I know is, a seven year search finally ended and I had come home.