I am blessed to have one Sunday off each month, and I usually sleep in and rest up that day, grateful for a precious TWO DAYS OFF IN A ROW (Monday being my usual day off). I don’t usually think about attending church; it would defeat the purpose of a day off for me to attend my own congregation (where I am always The Minister, even if I’m just there to attend worship), and since attending church is really about being in community, there is little point in my going somewhere for a one-time “drop in” experience.
But I don’t get to attend worship without leading very often, and this morning a Facebook post from a colleague inspired me to seek out a Sunday morning worship experience. I’m a worship leader, after all, and there is always something to learn about putting oneself in new and different worshipping experiences.
Everything that happens after this is what I assume millions of people go through every Sunday morning, as they find themselves yearning for the opportunity to connect with something larger than ourselves, a chance to encounter the Mystery, the Holy, the Sacred. It’s rough going out there, folks. We know that, but today I was reminded.
So the big question, where should I go to church?
First I just looked at churches physically close to my home. “I’m just looking for an EXPERIENCE,” I thought. “The exact theology doesn’t matter to me.” I actually started by looking at Catholic churches. I enjoy “high church,” even though I’m happily part of a low church tradition. But then I see that the services are just called Eucharist.
“It just says eucharist,” I said to my husband, who was raised Catholic. “How do I know what the sermon is?”
“There is no sermon,” he said. “Just a homily. Besides, you’re not supposed to care what the sermon is.” (He knows ministers think people should come to church no matter what.)
I winced. “I guess the homily’s about a reading from the Bible, isn’t it.” I’m starting to remember things I don’t like about Christian churches.
I spend a little more time looking at websites for traditional Christian churches. I looked at my local Episcopalian church, knowing that’s a more liberal faith tradition, but they too simply name “Holy Eucharist” as the service, and in reading over their description of what to expect on a first visit, I’m realizing how much time is going to be devoted to communion, which I’m not a huge fan of (the insistence that we’re drinking the blood of Christ is very off-putting to me).
“Uh oh. This says I’ll need to wear a name tag. I don’t want a wear a name tag,” I whine to my husband. (We all wear name tags at my church, by the way. But I’m wanting an EXPERIENCE! not chit-chat.)
I also look at my local Methodist church. My grandmother was a Methodist, and for a moment I treasure the idea of feeling connected to the faith of my ancestors. But the minister is an older white guy, and…well…ugh.
In fact, all of the church websites I looked at had older-than-me white male ministers. No offense to my white male colleagues, of whom I have many, but I have to admit, when deciding where to go, I found myself trying to get a feel for the community from the website. If the only clue I have is from the photo of the minister, nothing conveys “traditional church” like a white guy.
By the way, many church websites were terrible, and it is embarrassingly shameful how few church websites show their location and worship times on the home page. An out-of-date website conveys “we’re an out-of-date congregation.”
Okay, it was beginning to occur to me that I might not be able to find what I want close to home. I briefly flirted with attending worship at another UU congregation, but I am still A Minister in those communities, and I’m wanting an EXPERIENCE!
I finally google “liberal San Diego church” and am reminded of the existence of a liberal Christian church about 25 minutes away. The website affirms that they are open to all, including people who don’t believe in God (I am not atheist, but I figure that a church that is open to atheists is going to be the kind of liberal faith I can get behind). And I am not too late for the one worship service they offer!
And after an hour of worship I’m reminded:
- Ugh, even liberal faith traditions are still referring to God as “He” and “The Father.” I’m not down with an exclusively male God.
- Being asked to sing about an exclusively male God is almost worse than hearing about him.
- Sacrifice theology is also not my thing.
- 45 minute sermons don’t lend themselves to creating an EXPERIENCE!
- I hate, hate, hate pass the peace/greet your neighbor times in worship. HATE. THEM. I’m there for an EXPERIENCE! not for chit-chat.
- I’m a Unitarian Universalist.