I have simplified my church post down to this, which is still huge. But I don't think that I can leave out too much.
I used to go to a church where I liked the people but didn't really feel like I fit in too well. But I adored the pastor and stayed there until she left. I tried to stay, but it wasn't right anymore for me.
Instead of finding a new church I just dropped out because of all of my personal turmoil and my loss of belief in so many things. I didn't want to research and search again. I actually wanted to stay away from anything churchy or having to do with any religion. I would stop in to my childhood Catholic church from time to time with my dad, but I knew that wasn't for me and my family. After my dad died, I have had a very strong anti-church, anti-religion stance. Not wanting my kids to go anywhere near religion. I won't let them watch Veggie Tales.
My brother and sister and their families went to a new church on Easter. They kept telling me to come with them and how cool it was. So I went last week with Bec.
And I loved it!
The location of the church is where the mainstream of our city drives around with their doors locked. Although that neighborhood is not the one I grew up in, it is closer to my old neighborhood than where I live now.
The mix of people was amazing! And let me say that my family did not stick out in any way at all. At first, I was concerned that Ivy would be the only little white girl, but not so. There really was an equal representation of black, white, and hispanic. Just like all of us. When Chris and I have discussed church we pretty much thought that we would have to attend a variety so none of us would stick out every week. And our churchs ARE pretty separate. There are the black churches, the white churchs and the hispanic churches. There isn't a lot of crossover. But there was here. Yeah, we could go to one church!
There were very elderly people, very young people and all in between. The old man with the crazy hair in a wife beater with a sports jacket with the hugest beard you have seen in your life. The addict with the crazy weave falling out tweaking in the aisle. The teen with bright cherry red hair with a baby. The man dressed up in his orange silk suit and dressy shoes. Our babysitter's boyfriend rolling in late in his sleeping clothes (seriously, Melvin!) The people that dressed like bank teller uniforms. The teen girls in heels, poured into their tops with all of the make up and looking perfect. And there was no shortage of teens! In fact, I think that they may have been the majority. And, the parking lot also represented it all. Bec and I were totally checking out the rides. Pick ups, low riders, Mazdas, and Jaguars.
It was LOUD! which was annoying but I got used to it. So much emotion throughout, mostly from the teen girls, with a lot of tears and hugs from their moms and friends but as I looked around,lots of adults wiping their eyes too. Standing and dancing raising your arms. I got a workout! Me and Bec danced with Bec's best friend and his mom. (chris was out of town and Ivy was at my mom's)
I kept thinking, WOW!! We fit here. We all fit here. I love this. And I knew so many people.
AND THEN THE SERMON STARTED.
The minister is a man that we all grew up with. I don't know if he is 30 yet. In fact, you all kind of know him because he is Bec's barber, and you've seen a picture of him with me and bec on this blog. Becken's Birthday Hair He is married and has 3 boys but that wasn't always the case. It took a hard road to lead him to this.
When he was out of seminary, he was working up the ranks in a very popular church in town. And was very close to continuing there until God told him to build a church on the east side. And he did. He walked away from all of the security and recognition that he'd worked for into nothing. And I respect that so much. You can tell that there is hardly any money around, but they are doing it on a weekly basis. Barely.
First off, he is an amazing minister. Very passionate and charismatic. I was totally impressed, thinking, THIS is the little guy that used to hang with my brother? THIS is the little guy that graduated barely from High School and became a barber? I was proud.
It didn't take long for me to get uncomfortable. It became a money drive in not a subtle way. I almost felt like I was in a competition, or an auction or something.
Then he started in on two very basic beliefs that I hold true. And then he said that if we didn't believe the way that he does, to go to another church. No discussion, no questioning, just get out. My eyes were bugging out of my head. My sister was shocked as well and said, "man, maybe this isn't your church"
It continued to make me uncomfortable as it seemed like all of his examples of wrong doing were directed to women. AND he began talking about women who have kids with different dads, and women who have a sexual past, etc. And he then told us to pray for the mormons and the Jews. Hello???
All of this emotion. I was impressed. I was confused. I was mad. I was scared. And, don't I know this guy? And scared for the teens that don't really have their own experiences yet. What had just happened?
When we left, some of the people were standing around, kind of under their breath saying, "what was that all about?" My sister actually apologized and said that none of that had happened since Easter and she would never have suggested that we go back.
All week there have been emails and phone calls between my siblings. This has really gotten us talking and questioning. A sermon hasn't ever done this to this extreme for us. We also know that ministers are people too. That there can be an off sermon from time to time. So, we didn't go back this weekend but we will try it again.
So, here are some of my questions. What is the purpose of church? Can you attend a church that you don't agree with 100%? Can you attend a church where flat out say they don't want you? How much agreement does there need to be between the minister and the congregation? (The "amens" and head nods did quiet down as he got up on his soapbox, and there were uneasy looks exchanged. But some got stronger and more emphatic. )
How can I listen to my heart when my heart told me each opposite choice just as strongly as the other? I'm honestly feeling I'd like to continue because of the mix, but how can I in good conscience if I feel that this past sermon, and possibly, my friend is very dangerous? At least I know that MY kids will be in the kids rooms while the sermon goes on. Can you teach your kids differently than what the church tells them? I want them to know that there are other opinions than just the ones of their extremely liberal parents. I want them to know that there are extremes. But possibly not at 4 and 2.
Any words for me?