I've gone to church three weeks in a row. I don't know what the hell has come over me, but I love it.
I never thought of myself as a particularly churchy person. Jesusy: that's what gifted writer Anne Lamott calls them. She begins her amazing essay about searching for the meaning of grace during the Advent season like this:
We are now in the third week of Advent, which is a big time of year for my Jesusy people.
I love that. Both the invention of the word Jesusy, and the concept of "my people". A tribe. A community. A group of people bigger than oneself that can accomplish things we cannot do alone.
I'd like to have something like that. A family, but even broader. Deeper. Something to both take from and share my gifts with.
I never thought I'd want to join a church though. Most of the churches I'd attended previously, most, not all, but still, they made me either feel like I was crazy or narcoleptic.
Katie showed an interest in attending church. I don't believe in discouraging kids from seeking answers to their questions from all sorts of sources, as long as I see they are not harmful. So what the heck? The kid wants to go to church. I'll take her to church. I can sit through a couple of hours of daydreaming while the parishioners chant "Our Father..." in a tone resembling that of a cashier who's been on her feet for seven hours and forty-five minutes telling you to have a nice day.
But I was wrong this time.
The people at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church don't seem to be just going through the motions. Everywhere you look there are barrels and tables to put donations--food, clothes, diapers, Christmas gifts. There are signs plastered on the wall urging you to join their group that ministers to the poor, the hungry, the homeless. You know. God's children. The ones Jesus is said by his biographers to have commanded we love. Not just the ones who smell good. Not just the ones who tell good jokes. Not just the ones who have the ability to give back and overcome and serve. All.
I'm hearing the term social justice through the halls of this church nearly as much as I did back in college when I went through my phase as a sociology major.
I had no idea the chants and sermons and song would affect me in such a positive way. I find myself joining along. Something bigger than myself. To soothe my worries when I'm down. To give me other people to prop up when I'm up.
I used to think joining a church is an exclusionary act. When you join a group of people, you automatically exclude the people outside that group who have not, perhaps yet, perhaps never, joined the group. You are saying "We are us, you are them." Us and Them makes me queasy. I'm a Wish You Were Here kinda chick myself. Unless you're talking about the Pink Floyd songs and not the concept of exclusion vs inclusion, in which case I like them equally well.
But now that I see there exists a church that is at its most basic a community of people who have agreed to follow the guidance of Jesus and love all people, I'm feeling kinda Jesusy. It's good to see people who treat love as it is: an action verb.
I might find that I disagree with some rules and regulations of the church. I always do. That's at the core of my very being, being disagreeable. But it's cool to find a place to hang out with people who want to do their part to make peace on this earth.
So, just to clarify things a bit, here's a brief summary of my personal spiritual beliefs, whether or not they align perfectly with church doctrine:
I believe that since energy can be neither created nor destroyed, we are all part of the source of that energy, which you can call God if you like. Some beings throughout history have been more attuned to their inner energy. Jesus told us He was the Son of God. I believe we are all God's Children. I believe in science and evolution. I also believe that human beings have an inexplicable side to them that goes beyond understanding but is felt if we open ourselves up through reflection. You can call that prayer if you like.
Mostly, I believe in love. I yearn for world peace, both internal and external, personal and political, but even my bleeding heart sees how unachievable that dreams seem to be. But when I work on loving people to my best ability, all people, included on that list myself, I feel tingly and good about myself and my position in the cycle of life.
Now, that may or may not jibe with the Presbyterian view of things, but a lesson I relearn daily lately is that just as not all gay people think alike, not all straight people think alike, not all men think alike, not all women think alike, not all atheists think alike, not all religious people think alike. Two Freds, Fred Rogers and Fred Phelps, can both call themselves Christians but we don't have to think that means the same thing.
I'd love for our culture to evo-love, evolve with love, into one in which we love and respect all people. All. Period. I get that vibe from this church. So I'll go until I no longer get the vibe.
I'd like to end this post by sharing with you three video clips from the inimitable Vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green, about God and religion and churchy things that are kinda awkward to talk about but inspirational to hear. The Greens are so good at that sort of thing.
Peace and love to you!
On Religion (uploaded June 20, 2011) - John
Do You Believe In God? (uploaded June 22, 2011) - Hank's response
On Religion (Redux) - John summing up