Over two years ago, my husband and I started taking Griffin to church. At the time, I wrote an honest and heartfelt explanation of why I was taking my child to church despite my long and complicated personal history with the institution.
I was doing what was best for him. I was giving him a chance at the spirituality and faith I had long ago abandoned. I was being a good mom.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the altar. Week by week. Month by month. I began to fall in love with church.
Don't worry, this isn't a testimony. I won't be expounding on the power of Jesus's love or joining a mission trip anytime soon. My doubts remain. My questions are many. However, my faith - small and fragile like the tiny buds I suddenly see on every tree - is starting to grow.
I'm not sure when it happened exactly. In the beginning, I did my fair share of compartmentalizing. We would go to church. We would enjoy the community. We would take away what we wanted and ignore the rest.
Based on my past, I think deep down I expected to be found out and expelled. I grew up believing it was all or nothing. Believe. Fall in line. Or get out.
But here. In this new church, (well…new to me - Episcopals have been around a while) there was room for my doubts. There was room for my questions. In fact, it seemed everyone had them. They didn't seem to be searching for concrete answers but rather to enjoy discussing the questions … together.
I also began to hear my values echoed back to me in the pew. Values of compassion and equality and justice. I started to feel safe. I started to think about ideas I had stopped thinking about a decade earlier. Ideas that once upon a time brought me great comfort. I started to think about the meaning of grace. I started to think about faith.
For so long, I had focused on the practice of presence. Through reading and yoga (and lots of Oprah), I have come to believe that the present moment is where happiness truly lies. Then one day it came to me. Wasn't faith an exercise in being present? Wasn't faith forgetting the pain of the past and the anxiety of the future and trusting the grace of God will get you only through what you are facing right now, right at this present moment?
Still pondering my new connection, I was delighted to encounter a description of "present-oriented piety" in Dennis R. Maynard's book Those Episkopals.
This is a piety that proclaims that the world is a good place. It will tell you that life is good and living is a gift from God. … It is a church that will tell you that God comes to you every day of your life in ten thousand different ways; you need only open your eyes to see Him.
Maybe I would have come to this realization on my own. Maybe I would have found space for the quiet self-reflection I've found in the pews of Grace Episcopal Church.
However, I would have missed the opportunity to take this journey with the beautiful souls that fill my church. I would have missed the incredible gift that is a community of the faithful. A spiritual journey is available to all no matter where you spend your Sabbath but building a relationship with God through a relationship with your community is a truly special thing.
Church helped me see that.
Did you attend church as a child? Do you attend church now?