I have never been afraid of talking about my faith and I always hope that it’s not off-putting because I understand and love the fact that we all have different beliefs. But if you hate hearing about God I’d encourage you to skip this post!
I was born into the Episcopal Church so I’m considered a “cradle Episcopalian” and luckily the church I was baptized in is an amazing place. Chris and I were married there ten years ago and our three children have been baptized there as well. We’ve been regular on Sunday mornings, have been on committees and overall pretty darn involved in our church since moving back to St. Louis 8 years ago. When the kids were little it was so great to have my parents there to help us wrangle babies and knowing so many parishioners made it an easy and welcoming place to come back home to. The last eight years have been a blessing as we’ve watched our kids grow up at that church. Our best friends go to our church and so do our kid’s. It’s a good place. A really really good place filled with the best people we know.
In the last few years though it’s not been enough. The community is amazing, our friends are like family, the programs are good but the older our kids get and the more time I have to actually think about things other than surviving the days with three under three, the more discontent I’ve been at church. I have a yearning to know the Lord in a deeper way. I want to learn and know the Bible. I want to be fed in a spiritual way that our church has been unable to fulfill for me. So many of my friends and family are completely fulfilled by the Episcopal church so I realize what I’m experiencing isn’t across the board and I’m certainly not saying that our church isn’t able to be fulfilling for others, it’s just not for me. For a while I tried bringing change to the church. I tried offering suggestions, making changes, etc. but every idea I had was shot down in one way or another. After several other frustrating things took place what I realized is that I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole! If everyone else was happy and content at our church then it was me that was in the wrong place. And that’s not our church’s fault, it’s mine.
You might be wondering why in the world I’m telling you all of this! I’m sharing this for several reasons.
1. When you leave a church for reasons like this it’s not like there is a farewell party. There is no send-off with cake and punch where you can hug everyone goodbye. You can’t individually call every member of the church to tell them your story and explain why they won’t see you anymore. One day you’re there and the next you’re not. But if any of our friends that I haven’t spoken to are reading this I wanted them to know the truth. I don’t want us and our story to get swept under the rug and forgotten about. We’re not there because we’re too busy with soccer and we’re not there because we’re mad about anything. We have left the church because we are seeking something different. We want a church with a contemporary worship service. We want a church where prayer and Bible study is first and foremost and presented in a different way. We want to leave Sunday feeling convicted by amazing teaching. We want children’s programs that put Jesus first and everything else, including service, second. We want our kids to grow up with a deeper understanding of their faith then we think our church can offer. We LOVE the people there – we love you – but we need something new.
2. Stepping out in faith is SO scary. Our church is comfortable. It’s safe. We know almost everyone – a lot of people I’ve known my entire life. It’s home. We could easily stay there and be content for the rest of our lives but I feel God pulling us into the unknown. I think He wants us to get uncomfortable so that we rely on Him more. As a natural home-body it is HARD for me to walk into a new church or Bible study with people I don’t know and introduce myself. I did it today actually and it was painful at first. Standing-alone-no-one-talking-to-you-painful. But then it was good. In the scary parts of the unknown I have found myself drawing closer to God. Leaning on Him. Trusting His path for our family. And because of this I want to write about it occasionally here I think. I want to be able to look back and remember how hard this was. And if my kids ever need to explore their faith i want to be able to show them this and tell them that it’s ok because I needed to also. I want this documented. And remembered.
3. “Church shopping” is hard. Visiting new churches is hard, especially with kids that think it’s hard too. To go places where they don’t know anyone, in new buildings they’ve never been to and hearing services that are WAY different than what they’re used to. I’m not just pushing myself, I’m pushing my kids and Chris too. And if this is a hard process for me then I’m sure others out there think it’s hard too. So I want to share our stories of finding a new church, as much as I can. And I’d love to hear your stories of how you found your church home! Or if you have churches in St. Louis you think we should try I’d love to hear that too! Right now we have a short list of 3 we’re going to try but we are open to others as well.
Today was my first Bible study at The Journey in Tower Grove and to be in a room full of women that are setting aside time during their busy week to study God’s word was inspiring. It was HARD to walk into a room where I didn’t know anyone at first and it threw me WAY out of my comfort zone but I am excited to study the Sermon on the Mount and dig into God’s word in a way I haven’t before. I’m also excited to hopefully visit The Gathering this weekend because HOLY COW can that pastor preach! If you need some convicting sermons go listen to Matt Miofsky HERE! His current sermon series called “Breaking up with yourself” is pretty awesome but the one that’s getting me this week is his series called “Let’s get skeptical” – that one has been awesome for this cradle Episcopalian! I’ve found myself excited for drive time so I can plug into one of his sermons on my way to sessions and I’m keeping the tv off more while I edit so I can listen here at home too. And the neatest part of this journey so far was when I took just Bailey with me one Sunday to visit Riverside. After the amazing worship (which she LOVED) the pastor prayed for the church and afterwards she leaned over to me and whispered, “Mommy! He prayed without reading it from a book! I mean, he just PRAYED! That was so cool!” It totally melted my heart and showed me that I’m not going to destroy my kids by taking them away from the safety of the only church they’ve ever known – in fact – I think it’s going to be amazing to watch them grow and stretch from this experience also.
SO in the midst of the busiest time of year for me professionally (and for our family as our 3 kids are on 4 soccer teams and Chris is coaching too) you are getting a little piece of where my heart has been also. I think I cried for about a month leading up to finally making the decision to leave our church. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. And then the day after I officially stepped off Vestry and let the clergy know we were leaving the church I woke up feeling lighter than I have in a long time. Gone are all the frustrations and in their place are new possibilities. Friends that are sad to see us go but are also encouraging and excited for us. My parents who are also sad but so incredibly supportive. My dad even hugged me and told me he was proud of me! I’ve had amazing conversations about faith and God with friends I never would have talked about that with before all of this. And while I will miss our church, the traditions, the people and all that I hold dear there – I am really excited to see where this journey leads us. I trust that God has an amazing place for us and as we step out in faith I can’t wait to see where we land!