We have spent the last 4 years in search of the perfect church.
I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t out there.
As a bit of a disclaimer, I didn’t have a church before Selam came home. As a pulpit-supply princess, I was nearly always preaching somewhere, when I wasn’t volunteering at camp. And if one of the two wasn’t happening, I’d wander about, visiting friends and hearing them preach. I suppose I should have had a church, but honestly, churches have never been the most comfortable place for a single lady, let alone a single preacher lady. Plus, working at a seminary, I can go to chapel 5 days a week, so I didn’t feel a strong urge. I didn’t have a church. But then I got a child and needed a church.
First, we drove an hour each way to attend a Presbyterian church that was racially diverse. I’m not sure why I did this with a 3 year old. It lasted about 4 months before it became obvious that the excessive time in the car was not useful. In addition, she didn’t speak English, and she spent the whole time in the nursery, so not so great. After that, we did a little visiting around the area. I specifically avoided churches where we had student interns, since I was supervising the internship program at the time. I also wanted to drive less than 20 minutes. And it had to be reformed.
On the third visit, we went to a church that had a great CE program for young children. Selam called it the scissors church since using scissors was a big thrill at the time and they let her. We went there for I guess about two and a half years all told. I never felt comfortable there–it’s not my denomination, it’s not in my town, she was the only person of color in the church, and it was a very community oriented church–and we didn’t live in the community. But she was happy so we kept going. They did Christmas pageants and VBS (which we couldn’t go to, but it was nice that it was an option). Then they ran into financial trouble and laid off a bunch of employees, including the Christian educator. This was right as we left for a summer of non-stop supply preaching.
Over the course of the summer, as I drug Selam to UCC, Presbyterian, Lutheran and community churches, she asked me if the other brown people were Jewish. I was puzzled by her question. She told me that she wondered if they were Jewish because she never saw them at church.
Time for a change.
This fall we visited a predominantly African-American church. I know the pastor–in fact, I used to work for him, when I was an assistant university chaplain. The church is small. It is not pretty at all. There were only 2 children present when we went for the first time (but they still had a children’s sermon). The service was long.
Selam loved it.
She was fawned over and complimented and encouraged.
She wanted to go back.
So we have.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling restless, thinking about the things that she’s missing. There is no Christmas pageant. There is Sunday School only once in a while. I doubt there’s VBS. There’s just a great intern leading great children’s sermons–but she will graduate and move on. Maybe we should look again?
It snowed yesterday and church was cancelled. Most of the people at this church do not live in the neighborhood, and when the weather is dicey, people back out.
Selam had made some little ornaments that she wanted to give to some people at the church.
When she found out church was cancelled, she cried. She didn’t want to miss seeing her church friends. So she cried.
I guess this is our church.