I am moving across the country, and one thing that I will be looking for is a new church. That is pretty intimidating. I have been attending the same church for the past four years, and one reason I like it is that I know what to expect. I also want to make a good decision, because I probably will be living in the place to which I will be moving for a very long time—-longer than any place I have lived before.
I am not the sort of person who enjoys shopping for churches, at least not anymore. I like the same setting every week. But, by contrast, I am also not the sort of person who will waste my time on dead wood. What I mean by that is that I used to feel that I had to stick around in environments that did not accept me, at least on some level, and I do not feel compelled to do that anymore. At the same time, I don’t want to find myself in the same situation that I was in over ten years ago, after I had moved to Cincinnati: not going to church at all for three years. Things were missing from my life as a result of that: the joy of communal worship, community, the opportunity to show love for others, a change of pace on Sunday mornings, and a positive way to orient my week.
So that puts me in a bind, doesn’t it? I’d better pick the right church the first time, or I will find myself shopping for churches, which I hate doing!
I have been searching for churches on the Internet. The area to which I will be moving has some hip evangelical megachurches, and I definitely am ruling those out. Not only am I not particularly hip, but I also think that I can find a better, more accepting, less stressful community environment within a mainline church. Someone I know in the place to which I am moving occasionally attends a Unitarian-Universalist church, and, while I have found UUs to be thoughtful, I would like something that is more explicitly Christian. There are the Episcopalians, and I have found them to be mostly friendly, but, as a recovering alcoholic, I am reluctant to take wine as part of the communion ceremony, and an Episcopalian site that I visited appeared to view that as a non-negotiable. I am not saying that the Episcopalians have to cater to me personally, but it would be nice if the Episcopalian church at least recognized that there are people who struggle with alcohol and who may want to attend its services. (Maybe it does, and I am not aware of it.) I visited a Methodist site, and it did appear to have that sort of sensitivity, so I may go that route. Or I can try a liberal baptist church, or PC(USA), the denomination that I am currently attending. I am even interested in trying out the more conservative PCA, as long as people there don’t grill me on controversial issues. I may try an Evangelical Free Church. While I tend to recoil from aspects of evangelicalism, I did have a professor years back who pastored an Evangelical Free church, and I found him to be very thoughtful, profound, and learned.
Of course, I know from people’s stories, and even from personal experience, that there are mainline churches that can be pretty cold. I have to decide for myself how much of that I can take, and if I should move on to try another place.
As I contemplate looking for a new church, I often think about how fortunate I am to have found the church that I currently attend. I do not have a car, so I was limited in my options of where to go. The closest church to me turned out to be an awesome church. The people are friendly. It talks both about spirituality and also giving to people who need help. The sermons are thoughtful and leave me with things to think about, and to blog about. It will be a tough act to follow.