Lots of books have been written about the mass exodus of Generation Y and the disappearance of Millenials from the church. This fall, I read Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, a bold rebel rouser who dares to question, debate, and provoke those who hold more traditional views on religion. Her biography of loving, leaving, and finding the church stirred something deep inside me, and her story has resurfaced in my mind over and over again. The scene in chapter eight where she describes the day she walked away from the church, declaring never to return, struck a nerve.
She writes, "We crossed the parking lot, which still smelled of fresh asphalt, and climbed into the safety of our car. As soon as the doors shut, I put my head in my hands and cried, startled to tears by the selfishness of my own thoughts: Who will bring us casseroles when we have a baby?"
Her honest question about the long-held tradition of delivering meals to folks who've had a baby or lost a loved one resonated. Sunday potlucks and gatherings in the Fellowship Hall marked my childhood. Even to this day, my grandmother serves on the committee at our small town church to make sure a meal is prepared after every funeral service.
The truth is, it's not about the food. It's about the community. My husband's mother is a devout church-goer, and on more than one occasions she's expressed concern that he and I are not connected to a congregation of believers. She views her church family as her clan, and she finds deep kinship among those in her Sunday school circle. For almost 30 years, I too went to church each week, so I understand the importance of relationships, but since withdrawing from traditional worship services, I have found my own tribe among colleagues and friendships built outside of the church walls.
There are times when nostalgic amnesia emerges and memories of the past sweep through my mind like a gentle wind, reminding me of the things I left behind. Sometimes I miss the church, but right on the heels of this thought, is the ever present reminder of the heartache, spirit-crushing obligation, and deep sense of inadequacy ushered in by the endless "you're not enough" messages spewed from the pulpit.
I'm not sure if I will take Ami up on her offer or not. It's 8:30 a.m. right now, and the service begins at 10:45 a.m. During my most pharisaical days, I used to judge folks like me who only attended church during time-honored celebrations like Easter and Christmas. I too passed out flyers and invited strangers and acquaintances to hyped-up holiday worship services. After all, one of the biblical sacraments referenced in Rachel's book is holy orders.
As you can see, I am still searching for Sunday, and unlike Mrs. Evans, my path may or may not lead me back to the church. Regardless of the outcome, my faith journey continues to be full of awkward twist and turns, rocky bumps and bruises, and false starts. My never-ending battle with uncertainty persists, and I stubbornly refuse to accept anything less than universal grace. The God of my understanding loves with abandon, and His or Her table is open to all. Happy Easter!