Like so many others, I grew up going to church with my family. I wrote about it last year in my basically abandoned faith blog… It’s a pretty typical faith story for most. As a kid, you go with your family whether you want to or not. Then around high school or middle school, you get “a choice” if you want to keep going… Of course you push your freedom because, hey, home alone on a Sunday morning sound exciting. Then you graduate and freedom really hits, and if you move away, you’re left with attempting to find a new faith home on your own. For a lot of people, many don’t really return.
Of course, that’s not always the case. My oldest little sister (Sister #1) is now in college and very much active in attending a church there. I mean, going to a faith-based school makes it easier… But I went to a faith-based school and, well, I ended up not going back to church after a while. To my benefit, I did at least attempt it, but the closest congregation was 45 minutes away — and in the winter, the roads weren’t really ideal or sometimes possible to use. But, I digress.
You’d think, in a city as big as Chicago, there’d be more variety in churches here that I could find a church that fits me. But, well, there’s really only 2 Friends churches in the city. (And in case you missed it, yes, hi, I’m a Quaker.) One is on the very south side. Ok. So it’s around 57th street. It’s still really far south compared to where I live in Rogers Park. The other isn’t too terribly far from me, about 25 minutes by train… but still, when Sunday morning comes, I’m hesitant to leave the home.
I sometimes wonder if maybe it’d be easier if I weren’t a Quaker. Most churches you can go and sit, listen to the sermon, and leave without really interacting with many people. Meaning you can wean your way into the group a little easier and at your own pace. (Though, ok, some church welcoming groups are a little too aggressive in wanting you to feel welcome.) But with Friends churches, we mainly gather in silence, listening for the Spirit and speaking when we feel led to… And it feel really intimidating to join in on this group that’s built such a tight community, were we rely on each other to receive God’s message.
However, it’s that relationship and community that I miss. I’ve been in Chicago 7 years this June, and I still haven’t found a spiritual home. When I lived at my dad’s for only 3 months, I found a church that felt like home. And I really like my mom’s new church. (It’s not a Friend’s church, but the pastor is an old family friend and the congregation has really accepted my mom.) I just don’t have that here.
In college I got by without a regular church because I was taking religious and theology classes, and had friends to discuss these topics with. It was the church community without the Sunday service. (And it being a Mennonite college, there was always a lot of singing, so I never missed hymns — if anything, I found a new appreciation of them.) And while I love, absolutely love, my friends here, not many of them are religious. A good number actually talk openly about their distrust and contempt towards religion.
I didn’t really realize how much I actually missed church. But it’s been hitting me a lot lately. In fact, I’ve actually contemplated seminary so I could be surrounded by an academic religious community again. But I’m not so sure that’s the right solution for me… especially when I really want to work towards my teaching license. I just know I miss church a lot.
Basically… I’m just going to have to buck up, and make the 25 minute commute by train and go down to that Friends church by myself and just try it. I should give it a couple Sundays and just see how it feels. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I’ve got to stop letting fear control this area of my life. I just wish it was a lot easier.
Ok. So have you switched churches? Any tips for getting over fears and insecurities?