January 5, 2011 Leave a comment
I wanted to go to church, but it didn’t happen. I even tried three times.
Attempt number one was meant to be completely unthreatening. My sister and I were going to go to a carol sing service at the local Anglican church just before Christmas. I was excited. It would be a totally neutral way to suss out if I liked this church enough to come back and maybe attend semi-regularly. Maybe even sing in the church choir.
I’m still agnostic, but I think there’s something to be said for the act of worship and being in sacred space. I miss it. Actually that’s not entirely accurate. I don’t miss dirge-like hymn-singing from my parents’ church nor the boring sermons. I don’t miss the hellfire and brimstone services of the fundamentalist church I attended through my twenties. I don’t miss the three-point talks about how to be a better Christian. In fact, it would seem that I miss something I never had in the first place: the quiet of being in a space where everyone silently and separately says their own prayers to God or whoever they think will answer. I always picture Catholic churches this way.
When I was part of the fundamentalist group, I had a roommate who used to like to spend time in a church down the street just for the peace and quiet of it. Our group, in contrast, rented space in an office building and it never had much of the feel of the sacred. We also seemed to live by the idea that the louder we were, the more spiritual we were. There wasn’t a lot of quietness within that group. We also believed we were the only ones who had interpreted the Bible and the requirements for salvation correctly. As such, it was a bit odd to be enjoying the sacred spaces of the hell-bound masses. But even back then I understood my roommate’s need.
Unfortunately, my sister was too sick to go to the carol sing and I was too tired and intimidated to go alone.
My second attempt was this past Sunday morning. Having missed the carol sing, I thought I’d try going to the regular holy communion service at the same Anglican church. But I couldn’t manage to get to sleep until 4:00am the night prior and 9:30am came all too quick. I bailed.
My third attempt was completely unplanned. I had to go to the drugstore up the street later that Sunday night and on my way back I saw lights on in a Catholic church. When I tried the doors though, they were all locked. Barred from worship.
So far I don’t think that the universe is trying to block me from entering a church. I do wonder, though, if other members of any given church would be perturbed if they knew my motives; that I don’t want to believe what they believe—I just want to share the space. I wonder if it’s disingenuous to be there. When I was all fundy, I know that I would not have been so welcoming to someone who wasn’t interested in becoming a full-fledged member. However, if I dial back a bit farther in my religious history, back to when I went to church with my parents, I remember church being a welcoming, if boring place. No one was pressured to think this or believe that; attending was enough. After so many years of being part of something that had so little to do with grace or compassion or freedom, I forget that many churches, in fact the bulk of them, are spaces where welcoming the unsure and the unbelieving is the order of the day.
I don’t know if I’ll try the Catholic church across from the drugstore or the Anglican church around the corner from my apartment; but I intend to keep on trying until I end up in a sacred space somewhere.