Sunday, November 15, 2015

How to Find the Right Place to Worship

Five weeks ago I embarked on a journey to find a new place to worship.  I've attended the same church for 17 years.  I raised my children at this church.  I saw the congregation work through many changes in that time.  I formed close relationships with many, and varied, people who attend worship there.  It was familiar, uplifting and, well, a home for me in so many ways.

So why make a change, you ask?  The reason isn't something I can sum up in a sentence, and unless you know all the players, it wouldn't make sense, anyway.  Plus, I don't believe in dragging people all the way through the mud, though later in this post, you may believe my anger tells a different story.  I hope not.

In the interest of giving you some sort of explanation -In a nutshell, a decision was made to initiate changes to the arrangement and structure of the Contemporary Service which, since it's inception, five or so years ago, I had attended.

For me, the decision of whether to stay on, or to move on wasn't an easy one, I will tell you that right off the bat.  I cried; I prayed; I talked to the church leaders; I had discussions with trusted church members, then I prayed and cried some more.

I felt my heart was broken into pieces as I struggled with an answer. I knew that whatever I chose to do, I would be stretching outside my comfort zone, Staying meant embracing drastic changes to a service I felt completely at ease attending. Leaving meant visiting [probably many] other churches, along with all the anxiety surrounding that prospect.

I dislike meeting new people. Don't get me wrong, I really do like people, it's just that I have social anxiety.  Crowds make me uncomfortable, as does making small talk conversation with strangers (and sometimes even with people I know).  In three words - I was scared.

In the end, I knew in my heart that I had to leave.  Whenever there are big changes at a church, some people inevitably move on to find other places to worship, as they feel the proposed changes are too great for them to handle.  This is the collateral damage these situations naturally leave, and this time, sadly, I find myself as part of the collateral damage.

I've visited four different churches in the past five weeks - all of them different [Christian/Protestant] denominations. I have enjoyed elements of each church's service, and others not so much.  So far I have yet to find the exact right fit.  It occurs to me, the reason this process is so difficult is because what I am looking for doesn't exist.  It did exist, at my [old] church. I was obliviously happy with the way things were.  It wasn't perfect, of course, but lovely nonetheless. That service was taken from me, and, about that, I am sad and angry.

I am earnestly trying to set my anger aside. Truly I am, but it's hard.  I felt backed into a corner- forced to make a decision I shouldn't have had to make in the first place.  I'm angry because *I* have to make this change because of [in my opinion] a needless decision was made to fix a worship service that wasn't broken.

I am angry that  emphasis was placed on numbers, instead of ministry.  What good is getting numbers up if you aren't meeting the needs of the people already in the church?  I felt expendable - as if attracting new members was more important than my needs as a member.

 I know that this sort of anger is not constructive; it's left me spinning my wheels.  However I am angry.  I don't know how to process the anger, and flip it into something positive.

There really are only two choices when it comes to anger like this.  I can either allow the anger to cause bitterness, or I can move through it, and grow spiritually and emotionally in the process.

I know I'll never find the perfect church, because there is no such thing.  Churches are all full of flawed, human beings, just like the rest of the world.  I do hope, and pray, that I can be led to a place of worship where I feel my talents will be used in a positive way, and where I can develop a deeper relationship with my God.

Patience has never been an attribute I attribute to myself.  However, the older I get, the more I realize the controlled virtue that patience involves.  We can't rush refinement.  Taking control and being patient is required. It takes time for us to develop into the finished product we were made to be.  Even when we think we have arrived at [somewhat of] a finished product, we find some prickly edges that need to be smoothed down.  It's a never ending process, this refinement.

For now, I place my trust in the one who brought me this far in my life, and my heart will choose to say - blessed be the name of the Lord, no matter if I like what it going on or not.  Growth and refinement are good.  Not always easy, but good. No matter what, God has my best interest in the forefront. I believe that with my whole heart.
~Psalm 61:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT)
O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.