I was happy in my church. I had been attending for five years, volunteered in several capacities, and thoroughly enjoyed the teaching. In fact, I enjoyed my church so much that I decided to finally take the step of becoming a member. It was during that membership process that my views began to shift, and the realities of other churches were opened up to me. That's when things got messy.
Let me go back to the beginning of my church story.
Denomination #1 - Pentecostal
I was born into a Pentecostal home. I attended and was involved in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) until I was thirty years old (with the exception of one year in a Brethren in Christ church). I taught many different kids and youth programs, I attended the PAOC Bible College, preached in and worked in their churches, and was even featured in an issue of The Testimony Magazine. I was a fully devoted Pentecostal.
Denomination #2 - Anglican/United
During the separation of my ex and I when I was thirty-one years old, things between me and the church and the denomination went south. Needless to say, I left the PAOC. I started attending an Anglican/United Church. From the opening song in the first service I went to, I knew I was in the right place, for that time. That first song is still one I go back to time and time again. It's called, "Come and Find the Quiet Center"
Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes, that we can see
All the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.
Silence is a friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us, knows our being, touches base,
Making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun,
Raising courage when we're shrinking, finding scope for faith begun.
In the Spirit let us travel, open to each other's pain,
Let our loves and fears unravel, celebrate the space we gain:
There's a place for deepest dreaming, there's a time for heart to care,
In the Spirit's lively scheming there is always room to spare.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this church. Through the rich liturgy, genuine care of the minister, and friendly faces, God started my healing journey. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
Denomination #3 - Non-Denominational
When I moved to Waterloo just over five years ago, my plan was to look around for a church. After my first Sunday at the first church, I knew it was the right one. The teaching was deep and ministered to my heart. It wasn't Pentecostal or Anglican, but I knew it was where I needed to be. My healing journey continued. I got involved almost immediately by volunteering with the kids. After a couple of years, I started at Celebrate Recovery. I now have an amazing support team and family that I get to fellowship with and be real with every Friday night. I feel so blessed that God chose me to be a part of this life-changing ministry.
Denomination #4 - Baptist
My church experience was going so smoothly. Of all the things that were messy in my life, my church wasn't. I knew my place, I was involved in different ministries, and I couldn't wait until Sunday. Then, I started at a Baptist Seminary... and that's when my church and spirituality got messy. I was introduced to ideas that I didn't even know where issues - such as women in ministry - and it threw me for a big loop. I began questioning things I had never thought to question before and I was consistently challenged, which I am sure is one of the purposes of Seminary. I couldn't process the differences and the thought of "choosing a side" on some of the issues was far more than I could handle. I took a week off for a spiritual/mental health break during which time I had some serious conversations with God. When I returned I had a new sense of hope, and I realized I didn't have to rush into any theological decisions.
Denomination #5 - Presbyterian
Shortly after returning from my break, I started working in the office of a Presbyterian church. From the first moment I walked in there, I felt welcomed and accepted. As I met more and more people, learned about some of the programs that take place in their building, and listened to the minister's teaching, God started challenging me - again. It has only been a month, but I have already learned so much.
- It has helped me remember how much I genuinely love liturgy. The depth of the words and concepts, when said and prayed together corporately, is so meaningful to me.
- Every message I have heard or read gave me something that God needed me to hear. It sticks. And, it's applicable to life.
- The church opens its doors to people from all types of backgrounds, cultures, and situations, on a regular basis. I have never been in a church that hosts and allows their building to be used for such a variety of programs from the food bank, to free clothing, to AA, to gymnastics, and so on. It absolutely amazes me.
- I enjoy every single moment I am in that church, whether I am working, attending a service, or chatting with people at a community outreach event.
Where I Ended Up
I feel so blessed and so grateful for the amazing people God has put in my life this year. My life is now richer than I ever thought it could be. I have a diverse group of people in my circle, all of whom I have already grown to love dearly. God is teaching me so much, and the biggest is this: a community is not about the differences in beliefs, but the beliefs we have in common. Each of the churches I have attended believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and they each want people to have a relationship with Him. I believe we can all work together to reach this world with the Hope that only comes from God. People need the Hope of the Gospel and I thank God every day that He has called me to share that Hope with others - regardless of what church or building or street that is on.
As Scott McAndless says about prayer, "I need to put those longings into words because I honestly sometimes don’t even realize what it is that I desire before I say it... as soon as you do so, you can actually see for yourself what the solution is."
That's what I have done here today. I have put into words what I thought was a problem regarding church and how God wants me to serve people. And now I'm not confused and conflicted like I was when I first started this post because now I have talked to God about it and shared the longings of my heart. God knew what I desired before I even said it. He is so faithful.
So, what does this all mean for me? I thought I had to make a choice between places, beliefs, and people. But, I don't. There is only one choice I need to make - to serve God and love others the best I can, wherever He puts me and whoever He puts me with. And, when God gives me the opportunity to share His Hope, I must take it. No confusion, no conflict, no offence. Simply doing what He asks when He asks.
I'll end with this quote from an anonymous source, "Don't worry about locating your purpose. If you are seeking after God, your purpose will locate you."
Thanks be to God.