We’re Really NOT That Different

I have a funny story for you.

My family and I have been “church shopping.” We moved to the South almost 6 years ago. For about three of those years we attended a church about an hour away from home. We didn’t do a whole lot of research into it, we simply found the church that was the same denomination we had attended in Nebraska. Honestly, it wasn’t a great fit for our family. It was a small church with a very small children/teen program, and they weren’t particularly active in the community. Both things are important to our family. But, we attended anyway, because the next suitable choice was more than 2 hours away. Eventually the whole thing kind of fell apart, and it became painfully obvious that this church group was simply no longer a good fit for us. They were very, very different from the church we left in Nebraska. In fact, the only thing they really had in common was the denomination association. So, we left.

After a few months, I started missing having a Spiritual community. So, we started making that 2+ hour drive to another church. We ran into similar problems with a very small teen group. Our teens felt uncomfortable and out of place because there was a lot of political discussion during the teen group meetings. My teens held an opposing political view, and didn’t feel comfortable, or welcome expressing themselves. After a couple months we stopped making the drive.

I stopped looking, and pretty much resigned myself to being a “spiritual island.” Sure, there are on-line groups, podcasts and the like, and I listen, read and participate in those things. But, I also very much enjoy having a local group of people to interact with.

Flash forward to November of last year.

One of my intentions for 2020 is to expand our local contacts, and find a group of people my husband and I can make friends with locally. We are both introverts, and to be brutally honest, there is not even one couple we socialize with. If we wanted to have a get-together, I can think of one local person we might invite. That’s not to say that we don’t have friends — we do. But our all of our friends live in other states. I’m looking to connect with people who live close to us.

We live in the South, and down here, the primary way of meeting people seems to be at church.

So, we went “church shopping” again. I spent several days reading Statements of Faith, and church websites. I talked to family about their experiences with various Christian denominations, and I did a good bit of praying/meditating on the situation.

I found three churches within a 45 minute drive that we might be able to fit in with, based on belief, political ideas, and activities we wanted to participate in. (Keep in mind, there are quite literally 7 or 8 churches within 4 miles of our home. I guess we’re just picky.)

So, in the second half of November, my husband and I attended a church about 20 minutes from home. The first visit went well, although we felt the people were a little too friendly. We couldn’t even walk to the sanctuary without several members stopping us to say hello. We are introverts, that’s not our thing, but we also realize that we are the minority, so we didn’t let it bother us. The service agreed with us both, and the music was good. So, we went back. We attended a couple times to to kind of scope things out before we asked the kids if they wanted to go. Our daughter agreed first. She was impressed by the music, and liked the message. Then, our son agreed to go with. He isn’t much into attending church, but he very much likes so sing with the choir, and our reports of the great music had him interested. My son walked about feeling like he wanted to go back.

Then, the kids decided they were ready to check out the teen group. They came out of the teen meeting and both of them said they had no interest in going back. They both told us they would attend Sunday services with us, but that the teen group was (in their words) “awful.”

We kept attending Sunday services together. At the beginning of January we inquired about singing in the choir. We got the run around for two weeks. Finally, someone told us that we would have to attend regularly, every week, for six months before they choir would even consider letting us participate. At that point, both of my kids stopped going. They felt unwelcome and unwanted there.

My husband and I continued attending services. My husband liked the minister, and neither of us had heard anything that made us feel out of place. However, we were starting to talk about leaving – we just felt we were in the wrong place.

Then, they said they were putting together small groups, and asked for volunteers and group ideas. I believe in tithing not only money (Treasure), but also Time and Talent. Since we were not giving money to the church (we tithe elsewhere), I decided to offer to lead a small health support group. Not a class, necessarily, but a place for members with health challenges to come together to share and talk about their challenges with a Biblical perspective. I wrote out my suggestion on the form in the bulletin and put in in the offering plate, as requested. As I wrote out my suggestion, I said a simple prayer over it, that God’s will be done.

A week and a half later, I got a text from the minister asking if my husband I could come in and meet him. I responded that we could do that, and asked what this was about. He answered that it was about my class suggestion.

Okay. For some reason I felt like a kid in trouble being called down to the principal’s office. I had the feeling that my suggestion was not well received. The minister didn’t actually say that, it was simply intuition.

So, we went to this meeting yesterday. During the meeting, the minister was completely focused on a church that I attended in Phoenix, 20 years ago. It was pretty obvious that he has some sort of issue with them. He didn’t ask about the class I was suggesting, he didn’t ask what I wanted to discuss, or how I was going to approach it. Nothing. He spent the entire meeting telling me everything that was wrong with a denomination I haven’t attended in at least 15 years.

He told me that in order to teach a class there, I would have to publicly renounce that other church. I pointed out that the other denomination was *also* Biblical and Christian, and then asked what, exactly he expected me to renounce. His answer, “All of it.”

At this point, I’m sitting there thinking “how does THAT work.” But, what I said was that we had a lot more in common than we have differences. He didn’t even want to discuss the commonality of our beliefs. He didn’t even ask what my husband and I actually believe. He was totally caught up on what he thinks he knows about a church I attended 20 years ago. (which, had an internal conflict about 10 or 15 years ago, and isn’t exactly the same now as it was then.)

End result is that we won’t be going back.

And, I’m wondering if our area would benefit from an Interdenominational center.

Tell me your thoughts.