church

I’ve always loved church. I mean, what’s not to love about a motley group of people getting together every week to discuss values and ask big questions about Life? Hashing things out, together, is super challenging and complicated and hard, but it’s that complexity that’s also what makes it rewarding.

Plus, church provides a creative outlet for experimenting with new skills and projects. It’s where I get my friends and mentors. It’s my link to the broader world, and it’s my safety net. Church is the people who will care for me, and who I’m committed to care for, when things get tough.

For me, church is the people.

But the pretense of all of this church-ness is God, of course: worshipping God, reflecting on God, spirituality. For the last number of years (decades?), that part of church hasn’t connected with me so much. Which has been fine, actually. Our church is pretty action-oriented, so the religious-speak has always been something I could either use, or ignore, as suited me. 

But then Covid happened and church switched to Zoom. Pretty soon, I realized that Zoom church (zoom anything, really) just wasn’t gonna cut it for me. Without the togetherness, the words rang hollow. I could just as easily (easier, maybe) get my inspiration from a good book or podcast, or via a conversation with a friend.

drone photo credit: my older son

So we dropped church, thunk.

Did I miss it? Not really. 

No, let me take that back. There was actually a lot I missed. The rhythm of a weekly reset. The going somewhere together as a family. The familiar faces. The singing and the people watching and the exchange of ideas. The post-church rants. The pull to look at things differently, and the push to refocus on things that mattered rather then my petty wallowing. Done well, church is at the intersection of community development, social justice issues, the arts, mentoring, skill building, and political activism. Tapping into that energy, that potential — that’s what I missed.

photo credit: my older son (obviously)

A couple Sundays ago, we attend our first church service since Covid stopped the world cold. The single-day retreat seemed a nice middle ground to venture back. Hopefully, outdoors, we’d feel safe enough to freely connect? But I was nervous, too. This could be awkward. 

And at first I did feel disconnected. Out there under the trees, the churchy motions — the head bowing, the standing and sitting, the scriptures, the offering and prayers, the religious jargon — felt out of place. Cover the faces with (the required) masks, keep other people at arm’s length, and I felt lost.

drone photo credit: my older son

But then, lunch — handmade burritos and watermelon — and games: sand volleyball and miniature golf. Ultimate. Nuke-um (how’s that for a peace-church game, ha!) and cornhole. Kids chased each other and toddlers toddled and everywhere adults were visiting. 

Sitting in the shade with an ever-revolving door of friends, the sun-warmed grass pricking my bare ankles and my skin salty from the sweat of Ultimate, I luxuriated in the pops of laughter and the babble of conversation washing over me from all sides. Now this was church.

drone photo credit: my older son

And it was good.

***

Photos from a Sunday morning family hike a few weeks back.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (9.28.20), for my birthday, hey-hey, look who’s here!, you’re invited, welcome home to the circus, the myth of the hungry teen, the quotidian (9.29.14), pointless and chatty, 37.

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