2.26.2011

A New Local Church?

Part of the reason I don't write a whole lot these days is that my life is so rich with thinkers and writers and speakers who can say what I think so much better than I can. They don't always form my beliefs, but they almost always articulate them SO well. And I have things I must do that no one can do better than me: love my kids into healthy adulthood, serve as the mom I am to my adult sons, and experience my own string of moments of this life given by God to me.

I never wrote on here of my process in leaving St. Andrew's briefly for St. Mark, or of why I returned, or of how I have been growing and changing in the year since I returned. My daily faith experience is strong, and I like my life, and some transitions must just happen as they happen. There is no way to "take control of the process" to make it better, but instead we must learn to relax into the process and let go of control.

I love contemporary Christian worship music, and I love many of my friends and many of the leaders at St. Andrews. I'm sure God is working in them and through them, just as God is working in me and through me. I want to affirm my respect and loyalty to them. They formed my community and beliefs for the years from 1996 to 2008 or 2009. And there I got the opportunity for 4 years to as a layperson teach the Bible to adults, to participate in the Adult Education ministry team, to participate in the formation and execution of a mentoring ministry, and to be on the first year of a Relational Discipleship ministry team. I loved all that, and it was formative!

Those of you who are family or who know me from Wheaton College years or earlier know how I have really always wanted to serve God in ministry. Back then I thought that had to be out of an appropriate place for my gender, which I saw as in submission to the male gender properly. But I love God with more passion than I love my kids even, and love the evangelical vision of centering our whole lives around ministry, even if we are called to be bivocational. At St. Andrew's I enjoyed many opportunities to aim for this lifestyle, and at Wheaton I was preparing for that kind of life.

That commitment has not changed for me at this point, but my journey has me at a point of exploring new places for community. I'm grateful for on-line community and for conferences, but they do not offer the service/ministry opportunities I need. And as much as I love to write, communicating ideals or goals is not equivalent to living them. So I am in search of a local church community that will ideally:
  1. not make me suffer through traditional music for hours
  2. not be 70% people who are 2 or more decades older than me (47)
  3. not be intellectually impoverished
  4. not be socially exclusive and unwelcoming to newcomers
  5. not make my children suffer through boring or unnecessary programs
  6. not make my children feel like they are disliked
  7. not make me feel disliked

and

  1. WILL be friendly to newcomers and to my children
  2. WILL have a Pastor who doesn't water things down to the lowest common denominator and who has evidence of a brain that gets used regularly
  3. WILL affirm my use of social media and blogging
  4. WILL affirm my own right to exercise my brain
  5. WILL evidence a genuine passion for each life to be centered around a living faith of their own that gets exercised in many daily ways, both individually and in community

I am sure there are many who feel their church fits the above, and perhaps for them it does. For it to fit for us, it must feel that way to us. Yes, that is subjective, not objective. And it should be.

Why would I consider leaving St. Andrews? Well, some of that is like it is when a marriage ends . . . best kept relatively private. But some of it is very public, and can be boiled down to this: read my posts over the years I have blogged.

Having said all that, I acknowledge the possibility that I will do my search again and end up back at St. Andrew's as the best place for me within driving distance. But it is time to look again and see if that is the case.

(To my readers who would suggest many local evangelical churches not far from our home in Yorba Linda: I already know that my search is limited to pcusa churches. I had 8 years (18 to 26) of exploring other denominations, and ended up at First Presbyterian/Glen Ellyn Illinois with great relief. I was born and baptised a United Presbyterian and there for the merger that formed pcusa, and know the worship style, polity, and beliefs of all major denominations. I am not only a Christian, I am a Presbyterian of the PCUSA variety, by choice. And I am near 3 Presbyteries with hundreds of local congregations; so "limiting" myself to that denomination is rather like limiting my food choices to ones that contain ingredients I'm familiar with. See earlier posts to understand my commitment to connectional presbyterian polity with high value placed on educated leaders and consensus over time.)

Meanwhile, we need some stability; so I will still show up at St. Andrew's worship with some regularity until we find someplace that might last as our church community for decades and is worth becoming the new place of stability and community. And First Presbyterian of Second Life still provides huge stability and comfort for me personally.

I welcome your prayers, and suggestions too! And if any of you want to visit a particular PCUSA church WITH us or invite us to a particular service at your own PCUSA church and serve as our hosts for that day, I would be most grateful! I am shy and hate being the stranger in the midst of friends.

Thanks to those of you who read my blog and comment to me about it. You shape me and my experience of community more than almost any other "tribe" in my life. Thanks also for the ways you share your experience of faith and life and community with me! What a gift!

2 Comments:

At Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 2:44:00 PM PST, Blogger Mark Smith said...

Maria,

I applaud that you recognize that sometimes you are called out of a community, just as you were called into it. It's not an error in the calling-in, it's just something that's run it's time. (Ecclesiastes 3)

Having said that, I caution you not to search for perfection. My list is fairly similar to yours. But my current church fails me on 2 1/2 of those items. I see the blemishes, try to help correct them, and accept that the community will be flawed as its members are flawed.

If I were on the correct coast, I'd love to visit with you!

Mark

 
At Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 3:37:00 PM PST, Blogger MK Anderson said...

Thanks, Mark! I completely agree. And I suspect I'm going to have to resign myself to traditional music, among other imperfections. ;)

 

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