I’ve only visited three churches since I decided to make this coastal city my home for the foreseeable future. I’m not really sure exactly what God has for me here yet. I know I’m looking for a community of people seeking Truth, whose lives are open to that Truth permeating them and who are real, flawed, seekers. I’m not interested in the “perfect” church – that doesn’t exist and seeking to find it or be it isn’t healthy for me.
Having served in churches in the past and sat around discussing how to “welcome” new people, I find the experience of being the “new” woman illuminating. Approaching being new with a posture of curiousity, of openness and a willingness that I don’t know my place here, I don’t know yet what it means to make home here, and I don’t know if being here is a for the forseeable future or something else entirely.
One of the churches I have visited is large and loud and insofar as they met in coopted spaces including a school gymnasium they are informal. Yet, in the detail of their programming and the ‘steps’ new members are guided through, they are anything but. There’s a sense of eager youthfulness in their assertion of independence, of a mission that runs into seeking thousands come to know the Christ they are teaching. I sense that this is not a place where I would flourish but see that others might find community for a season.
Another church was within walking distance of the house. A mainline denominational church it was about as formal liturgically as one can get on the protestant side of things – beautiful in its liturgy though stilted in delivery. What struck me here was the genuine sense of fun and community – the way they smiled and nodded welcome was much more affective (and effective) than any “welcome” team has been in my past experience. I met more than one generation of a couple of families and listened to the real and genuine interactions over tea afterwards. When I come back in future weeks, they remembered my name and shared things they’d seen and heard about they thought would be of interest to me. I felt thought of and cared for.
Another was a larger dynamic church which sought to blend traditional liturgy with fresh expressions of that liturgy. they meet in an old church building, one that is unmistakably australian from the outside but which seems to combine medieval, gothic, and victorian elements on the inside — like the founders sought to ground it in some historical place far away. It is spacious to say the least. The music was raucously off key but earnest. The preaching sought to intertwine anglican liturgy almost imperceptibly through a less formal way of church – meaning was delivered through re-crafted aspects of a common book of prayer liturgy. There was depth with less obviously self-conscious form. I see a willingness to be part of the community not just to do ‘outreach.’
These vignettes are brief and I am hardly placed to claim that I “know” anything about these churches. My first impressions may prove inaccurate — i’m trying to balance honesty with a desire not to pass judgment and to seek to appreciate that each church has its own way of working and serving their community (however they conceive of it).
I don’t know yet which of these (if any) will be the community I walk alongside. I do know that I don’t want to be a forever visitor. I want to be able to be myself in worshipping alongside others in community. But this process cannot be rushed. It takes time.
What d you look for/did you look for when trying to find a church to be part of?