It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, which means more than a few things have gone on: the end of a school year for two (now) high-schoolers, the beginning of a Missions Trip for one college girl, the official end of my Masters “career” (I had a few detours), one nasty ACL surgery, and alas, the ongoing and never-ending search for a church home here in Grand Rapids.
The high-schoolers were awakened too early for their liking on Day 2 of summer break because, church. And also because “I’m not trying to like, be busy right now, Dad.”
My senses were awakened too early for my liking ever on that same Day – the first day of college girl’s Missions Trip, when I received a text from my sister that in all its brevity asked: “Did you see? I hope Liv’s not near that mess!!!!” Through teary eyes I read the news, immediately MapQuest’ed, and realized she was 16 hours away from a bomb that had gone off in a local mall killing three people – in Bogota.
(This morning my sister called and profusely apologized: “I didn’t mean to scare you! Mom and Dad just kept saying “Colombia” so I thought it was the same city.”)
Dear Ms. Minerva High School World History/Geography Teacher…we all forget your name for a reason.
“No problem,” I tell her. “You were just worried.”
If only I was that nice in my reaction to finding a church home.
IT IS TERRIBLE.
Officially, it’s no longer an exciting quest embarked upon by two people who love Jesus and love each other. Instead, it has morphed itself into a stinking saga, replete with stories you can’t make up. And you guys know the deep penchant and appreciation I typically have for those kind of stories…
But not when it comes to this. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
In the way of review:
- My husband’s longtime, non-denominational church in Grand Rapids is not a place I ever felt I wanted to be long term. While I tried, something was missing for me. Theologically, it is sound. The worship band is great. They do things to help the underserved in the local community and participate in a clean water initiative globally. All things that are important to both of us. But the “connection?” Missing. At least for me. Even though he doesn’t complain or say much about it, I know Ryan is struggling with not going there, much like I am struggling with the loss I feel over no longer being a part of the last church I attended in Fort Wayne. I WANT THAT CHURCH – THE LEADERSHIP AND THE PEOPLE! – HERE.
- We tried a large, Evangelical Bible Church that came highly recommended. Oh and also, “Lots of people go there.” Yeah, well, not these people. Specifically because that’s code for lots of people who look alike, act alike, talk alike, work alike, vote alike, and shun you alike. No thanks. Plus, remote campuses (yuck to me) and “laser light shows” with too many renditions of “Oceans” (yuck to Ryan).
- We tried another large, Non-denominational Christian Church, one that also came highly recommended and I really wanted to like. I ended up hating it – if not first for the popcorn and coffee-bar-galore welcome then for sure when sister on stage started bellowing out Meghan Trainor songs. As she gyrated, her husband Snap Chatted her sweaty décolletage, congregants bebopped and shoveled their bagged popcorn, and we simultaneously facepalmed and skedaddled on home.
- Not giving up, the following Sunday we tried a church close enough to our house that we could walk on non-Michigan-winter days. Its denomination is The Evangelical Covenant Church which defines itself as follows: A denomination of more than eight hundred churches in the United States and Canada. It was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1885 as a voluntary covenant of churches committed to working together…Stop right there. They burned holes through us when we walked in, so I’m not sure how they “work together” towards anything. Side note: the woman who gave the message was PHENOMENAL. And I’m not just saying that in the name of gender-bias. She was amazing, but the people were not followers, i.e. imitators even a little bit, of Christ so we agreed to never go back. However, on a high-ending note, I maybe run most mornings in their parking lot leaving remnants of my stink all along the way to remember us by. (While listening to Dragula, not Oceans.)
- Another super-large, Non-denominational Christian Church. I had an actual ocular migraine during service as two couples shared marital stories from a private state box above the theatre-like stage; so, in the 45 minutes it took us to exit the 10-acre parking lot, we talked about everything except going back there the following week.
- A Wesleyan Church. For the record, I’m going to delve into the general differences in “religions” (don’t cringe) in future posts but for now – just know that I ascribe about 1000 percent more to Wesleyan theology than Calvinism so I was looking forward to checking this place out. Until the pastor came into the sanctuary high-fiving people who were seated watching the laser light smoke show behind the band…that, I’m not even kidding, was playing Dream On.
“Is that Aerosmith right now?” I ask Ryan, so frustrated I can’t even laugh. “No. Please say no.”
“Ready?” he asks.
(Sigh) “Let’s go.”
- An almost – almost – almost church home: Lutheran – ELCA, not Missouri Synod. What’s the difference? (Click to read). In the end, this was the closest version of “church” we’ve found. But after the contemporary service on Sunday – we’d been going to the traditional services frequently, whereby we were 100 years younger than everyone else; Ryan was the fastest one up to Communion, 6 days after his ACL surgery – I audibly admitted from a seat in the carpeted basement gym: “I’m done.”
That pronouncement was not easy. The people are welcoming. The lead pastor is a charismatic, caring, and bright guy. The associate pastor is a good guy. The “helping” pastor is a woman (hey, beggars…choosers…I chose to roll my eyes only in my mind and not as I mouthed and POINTED TO THE WORD in the bulletin while shrugging my shoulders at THE BOYS up front). It’s close to our house. They are big on interfaith dialogue. They live in Community. The church I miss with every ounce of my being back in Fort Wayne is an ELCA church. Ryan grew up Lutheran, and I hail from Catholicism, so Lutheranism feels not only homey, but compared to all the other places we’ve visited here – sane.
Except call me crazy. We’re still looking.
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