Change is never easy. And whether or not it is good is always left to the test of time. Sometimes change occurs over months, years even. Or sometimes it occurs in a swooping thought to do something different. Whatever and whenever it happens, it always has a lasting affect on the person making the decision to think differently along with those the change directly impacts.
The reason I mention change is that in the near future, I am going to have to make a decision that will not only be a major change but affect a lot of people. A decision that I take very seriously and after spending years of finding something good, will have to change to something new and unexpected.
Since moving to Rancho Cucamonga last year, Shawn and I have struggled to find a church congregation that we can attend that is close to home. Right now, I drive 40 miles away to attend church (which for California is a distance) and have limited my interaction with the groups I find most important (choir & book group.) Shawn doesn’t come because most morning I have to leave by 6:45am to make choir and Sunday is truly the only day he gets to both sleep in and spend time with me. This drive has not been healthy for my spirituality (because being tired ends up conquering the 8:00am church service i prefer to attend because the choir sings and I enjoy traditional worship) and is now starting to make me sluggish and annoyed on the physical/mental side. Many times, the bed is mightier than the service. Therefore, since we moved, I have been trying to find a good time to “transition” out of my loving church family at Messiah to another congregation closer to home. It is becoming even more prevalent because as Shawn and I think about kids, we both agree we want our child(ren) to group up close to where their school friends will be. I can relate especially to this decision as while I attended church near my home, several of my church friends did not attend the same school making hanging out a little complicated.
Again, Trust me–Change is not easy.
I have pushed, cried about it, told myself I could still participate and worked to stay involved. But I finally gave in to the idea that I will have to leave my Messiah church family.
It seems to go with the current tides. I have been making choir less and less, a new pastor finally arrived and is handling a lot of the groups I was helping stay involved with or where others have stepped forward since the previous pastor retired. The church has also selected a year long study focus (“The Story”) that I have a hard time connecting to because of its generalizations about the biblical texts and overarching thematic sacrifices. So, during the advent season and into the new year, while still trying to attend church I am going to be “scouting” out a few congregations closer to our home (hopefully with Shawn as well) to find another congregation.
For those of you that have been with me since college know this is not going to be easy. Messiah has been my family for almost 10 years. I love the people, the care and involvement with the mission of the Church and its partners’ desires to follow Christ. It’s the reason I drove the 40 miles, took time off work to make events and why I always have to add 1/2 an hour to the expected hang out time small groups take. I spent a good couple years before coming to Messiah trying to find a supportive congregation so it’s pained me to think about leaving. I went through at least 4-5 other churches, considered drastic changes in my personal faith to join congregations because I am knowingly over-critical about how a congregation interprets and understands the bible and its teachings. I have to be majority (51% or more) comfortable and supportive with the church’s actions, events and interactions to consider making it my home. And no matter how many faults one congregation may have or how many churches I have attended (which is a lot considering my theological and personal desires)–I have only considered two churches my home: Anaheim UMC (my childhood church) and Messiah Lutheran (my current church.) so to search for a new home is a little daunting.
So as thanksgiving approaches–I want remind everyone to be thankful for your churches. For those within your congregations that you connect to and that you love and support. Remember that you may not always have them, that you may one day have to leave them and that no matter what, you know that they are always your family in Christ.
To have a few positive side notes:
–I will still be attending my monthly book group. This is once a month on a Friday and only requires reading a book which I already enjoy. Commitment level low and completely okay if I attend another congregation.
—possible involvement in The fine arts ministry. Several people are involved here that do not attend messiah. It will just depend on schedule, show and life events.
— the congregations I have already sought out have some positive aspects to them, including a different synod membership (different viewpoint), alternative services that by description coincide with my beliefs on worship styles and the group activities of the church are more in line with my local area. And if the congregation is closer to home and services start later, I can sleep in and shawn and I can attend together. Win-win, right?