separate lives

i love wednesdays right now. sure, i’m in class all day, but they are the interesting, practical classes…the classes that really pertain more to where i’m headed than much else i could be taking this semester. but the end of the day is the best part. i come home for a bit, get some dinner and then it’s off to a coffee shop with al to join our new community of friends and fellow travelers. and i look forward to it thursday through tuesday.

church on sunday tends to be a whole different feeling. i certainly don’t get the kind of spiritual nourishment at church that i get at that coffee shop. but the church is my current context of “traditional” (for lack of a better word) ministry. so i do ministry in one place and get fed in another. and i seriously doubt that the two would ever really cross paths. and that says something pretty significant…that i can’t get fed by doing the traditional ministry in a traditional institutional church teaching sunday school.

but when i try to leave that traditional institution, i get pulled back in. i thought maybe yesterday i would have an opportunity to visit another church…just because…since our plans to go out of town were scrapped but people at church still thought we were to be gone. until al talked with our college minister and mentioned that plans changed and we’d be in town after all. and so i was given the task of helping to set up for sunday school (we are in shared space…long story). the college minister was going to be out of town and was really concerned about how everything was going to get done and while she isn’t the type to over-spiritualize things, she definitely considered my availability an answer to prayer. and so it was back to the institution…

which is probably where i need to be in the first place.


4 thoughts on “separate lives

  1. Mary, this might be a good topic to bring up…what is it about “church” that is essential (or we feel is essential) to our faith or relationship with God? Do we really need “church” or just certain aspects of it? Do we think church should be the one place we feel MORE contected to God b/c we’ve been taught that our whole lives and we feel guilty if we doubt it? Why do a majority of people go to church and what do they get out of it?

    I haven’t questioned the effectiveness of church as much as I have the effectiveness of sermons and the patterns of worship services we get into. It’s sad, but I’ve somewhat given up on the idea of truly worshiping on a Sun. morning (not b/c of any church or any bad experience, but b/c of other things like lack of spontaneity and boredom, stress outside of the church, too much going on at church (esp. when Justin is a minister), etc.

    ANyway, I’m really tired and this is probably not making a lot of sense…plus I think I would like to discuss this with others and see where it goes! 🙂 What do you think?

  2. This all goes back to the picture on the Divine Conversations blog. I haven’t said much about the picture of the dead-end church sign, but depending on my mood that day, I can feel a wide range of emotions when i see it, a lot of it has to do with the same things that you state in this post.

    Sometimes i wonder if I attend/participate in the institution out of a feeling of responsibility! Interestingly enough, that’s what institutions do best, make you feel responsible (also read guilty) through tried and true tacticts of indotrination (not theologically but pratically: if we are out of church more than one sunday, do we not get asked what’s wrong with us?)and fear. I think deeply ingrained in both of us is a fear, loathing, and love for the institutional church. However, i argue with myself every day trying to convince me to either go back to the institution, or stay as far away as possible! It really is a sad and hard place that the Church we love has put us in!

  3. i think church is more of a social gathering place…which is neither inherently good nor bad. we need (because we are humans) to be in community, preferably with people like us. church is a good place for that. so is java divine on wednesday nights.

    perhaps we do think church is where we should feel MORE of God’s presence…it is after all “God’s house,” which is a very hebrew idea in that God doesn’t leave the homeland…which we say we don’t believe, right? we claim that God is with us always, everywhere we are. yet that’s another one of those beliefs we say we hold, but we don’t act like it.

    i don’t doubt that there are people who go to church on sunday morning and truly encounter God, truly worship God, get their community needs met and engage in Bible study. but i have to wonder whether that is the majority of people who are in the pews. and it may be, for we all know that our coffee shop community is very much in the minority in your typical church.

  4. I think that you are right, the coffee house community that we are experiencing (as far as the true community/worship part goes) is a rare thing in the mainstream protestant subculture. IDK what has made me think about this, maybe it was my talk with ali, combined with my talk with you, and then this blog post, but I DO remember times when I have felt what i am feeling on wed. nights in a baptist church!

    As a youth, there were times at which I felt that I was in the act of worship. There were times in the youth group that I felt I was being fed spiritually. There were a lot of special events (retreats, revivals, renewals, and other things that should begin with R just to keep the theme) where an encounter with God happened (even if it WAS due more to emotional provoking/fear tactics). However, those were still only once a year, and never in what I would consider a safe community for exploration!

    Then again, as a youth minister, I can remember times when I knew God was present, but very rarely was it found within the pews. Usually it was found within my youth sub-community. I remember one lesson where they were using their artistic gifts with clay (talking about God molding our individual journeys like a sculpture; delicate, thoughtful, beautiful), they were much better with clay than I am! They each made different things: one made a Dog getting hit by a spray from a fire hydrant, and one made a man on a tiny island sitting under one palm tree (we didn’t even know that youth had that kind of artistic talent!), as well as many others. I remember this was an opening exercise to introduce an experience to keep bringing back in as we explored the lesson/topic above. but before we even got into the lesson, I watched their hands expertly, delicately, and beautifully work on their sculptures and at that moment I felt God’s hand on me. They taught me the lesson that I was supposed to teach them! This happened in a church building, but this kind of thing is the exception more than it is the rule. Our youth community was more like our coffee house community than it was like any youth group I had seen or been a part of!

    Maybe that’s why I have both a love and dislike towards the church. It’s a marriage that has more bad moments than not; more fights, more silence, more distance, but just when you’re about to give up God is allowed back in! Through a lesson, a speaker, a thought, a relationship, a question, a discussion, or a comment. You remember those times and your love for that marriage, and you realize that you’re just not quite ready to give up working on it yet!

    So I don’t know if I’m hanging on to a marriage that’s dead (i repeat I am talking about the marriage between myself and the church not my personal marriage for those that skim…that is just fine thank-you!) and I just don’t know when to let go, or if, when so many ARE giving up on the insitution that I am being told to hang in there, and help it over this hump, to help it remember the mutual love that we both had/have that made the Church such a sacred place! and so the war rages on!

    also you might find of interest: my emergent contact’s blog. He has some interesting things to say in his latest post that tie into this topic:
    his name is Jeff Kursonis, he’s a cool guy!

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