I love my church, especially lately.
(My first offering – macaroons for Easter)
I have loved them from the beginning, but there have been difficulties. It has been hard to socialize with them. I shoulder most of the blame for this – I am often a difficult person to get to know. I am a pretty extreme introvert; I’m not a hermit, but I sometimes fantasize about being one. In most situations, I overcome this by adjusting socially with what a friend once called my “politician self” – the part of myself that is vital for working in customer service or teaching public speaking. While this more gregarious version of me is a real part of who I am, I want my church to know my deeper self, too, and that has been a challenge.
It’s also the first liturgical church I’ve attended with any regularity. Even though I’ve been in church my whole life, I feel like I’m brand new at it. I don’t know the creeds by heart, and I don’t recognize most of the hymns. The hymns I do recognize often have different verse than I grew up singing. Most of the time, the changes are sweet to my ears, but I really miss the verse of Oh, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing that ends “…and leap, ye lame, for joy.”
We are also predominantly white (I didn’t know I could belong to a whiter church than I have in the past, yet here I am.). I’m not sure why. But neither are they, and they aren’t afraid to talk about it or question it. I have never been a part of a group that has such civil discussions while at the same time refusing to shy away from hard subjects. I’ve never been in a church before where the prayers are always in touch with what is going on in the world. We pray, we lament, we mourn, and we discuss what our response will be. We don’t hide from uncomfortable truths.
These are not just words whispered in private conversations; they are mentioned from the pulpit. For most of my church life, I have had to practice the art of biting my tongue while clinging desperately to the commonality of Jesus in order not to be asked to leave. As you might imagine, I’m not great at it. When I would get too comfortable and forget to keep a thought to myself, the best I could hope for would be a bless-her-heart, pat-on-the-head tolerance or eyes filled with annoyance. I could expect accusations of stubbornness or assumptions of ignorance or looks of pity, for clearly, they thought, I was being deceived.
This church is the first place where the results of my prayers and my convictions are often the norm or are at least similar to those of other members, even the ones who have been to seminary. This is probably arrogant, but after decades of being told or having it implied that I am wrong or sinful for hearing from God the way that I do, it is IMMENSELY gratifying to say, “This is what I think…” and have someone who has studied the Bible with the intensity of preparing to teach it to others reply, “I agree.”
This is not to say that we always agree. And that’s really how they won me over. As satisfying as agreement on most things has been, it is even sweeter to hear, “I don’t agree, but tell me more. What brought you to that conclusion?” To not be dismissed or merely tolerated is heaven.
I love the observance of the seasons and their involvement with my Denton that I love. But it’s their sweetness and acceptance that have captured my heart.