This past Sunday morning, I decided to make my way down to the congregation I belonged to prior to heading off to seminary. It was an important and formative place along my journey: they cared for me as I mourned my dad’s death in 2006, they allowed me to lead youth ministries and serve on the church council as a layperson, and it is where I ultimately decided to attend seminary and become a Lutheran pastor.
It was a good worship service. The sermon was great, I saw and chatted with familiar faces, but I left feeling very much that I no longer belong at this congregation. It’s a feeling that has been all too common this year as I continue to sit in pews in Sunday’s, listening to the preachers words, receiving the sacrament, and while appreciating how connected everyone else around me seems to be,
I find I’m still searching.
At this moment in my life, I’m not sure why I keep going. Perhaps it is to capture a sense of nostalgia, an old familiar feeling. Perhaps it’s because the longing I feel is really a desire to be able to sit in a pew, look around, and say to myself, “This feels like home.” I don’t think that’s quite right though.
I’m discovering that for this part of my journey, being a vagabond of sorts when it comes to churches and belonging feels right. It has actually been life-giving to simply appreciate a faith community is on its own terms, without having to feel the weight of expectation that my attendance leads to homesteading there. For someone who has been overly critical of what churches are or aren’t doing, there is something freeing in that process.
I haven’t ruled out being surprised. I haven’t ruled out that one day, I’ll want to be part of a church long-term again. For now, I’m comfortable being a transient presence, I’m comfortable simply appreciating things as they are, in the present moment. I’m content to be encountered by God rather than seek to have an encounter with God.
I’m comfortable searching.