Churchless in Seattle
Where are you going to church?
I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked this question over the last few months, yet for all the times I have been asked it, I never have felt solid in my answers. Having left our church nearly six months ago, my family have left the Sunday church crowd and temporarily joined "the nones." We are "churchless in Seattle," a fact that I am increasingly okay with but not sure how to communicate due to my own ambivalence on the matter. At times I am very happy to be without a church and without a community. I am not preoccupied with belonging in ways that I once was. At other times, loneliness knocks at the door of my heart and I wonder why
When people ask me this question, I can feel my heart rate increase, leading me to wonder... What am I afraid of? At a time when I have no membership to lose, I still can retreat to that fear of rejection. I still want to look good and not look bad sometimes. I also can have considerations of what the other person is thinking running through my head. I do not want to speak ill of their church or their faith. Sometimes I like to say that my theological education was to teach me all the labels, while my life's vocation is to transcend them.
I have sought to answer honestly in each encounter, and I hope to do so here. What follows are two reasons why I am churchless in Seattle, along with the questions I am asking at this season of my life.
1) I'm detoxing.
I'm letting go of my ideas of God and how they've driven my life. I'm moving past "shoulds" that I accepted for a long time. I'm a recovering addict of religion. I've been in churches my whole life, and like any human institution, there's plenty of sh*t to go around. There are hurt people. There are ideas and worldviews and systems that wreak havoc not only on outsiders but on the members and facilitators of church experience. Charismatic Christianity has been hugely helpful and transformative for me, and it also has had plenty of theological and psychological baggage for me to let go of. I have many Christian friends that have never gone through such a process, and that's okay, but this is important for me and my family.
2) I am being fully authentic where I am without being an existential threat to an institution.
I have always been a bit of an "other-than." For the last few years, I have been enjoyed and appreciated by many in church, while also threatening the status quo. As I move beyond the effects of being perceived as a threat or being kicked out at one point or another, I am enjoying what it is like to simply be me. Wherever I go, there is no agenda, simply an invitation to be. At work, both my uniqueness and the ways that I fit are an asset to my team and our purpose. In writing, in conversation, in living... I am not worried about who I will offend; I am emboldened to inspire others to be authentic. In many religious circles, being different can be threatening. Asking questions or seeing the world from a different angle is outside that box. I'm sure there will be faith community that we find and co-create that is robust enough to handle critical thinking and diversity on multiple levels. In the meantime, I am finding what it means to be me without walls, a fence or a rule book.
I'm not going to church right now, and I'm thankful to God for this opportunity to let go and move forward.