What do I need in a new church home?

I’ve sort of been a free agent for the last couple of years, visiting other churches while maintaining my membership at the home base. For a variety of reasons, I have not felt particularly called to share my gifts in ministry there in a while. And yet I have not felt particularly called away from membership, either.

That changed recently.  And it was an odd feeling to suddenly feel released.  It wasn’t a voice of God moment, so much as an unbinding of the heart moment.  Liberating, freeing and unsettling all at once.  I think because while it was good to know it was time to go, there wasn’t a clear “and go to *insert new place here*”.

So, for the first time in over a dozen years, I am looking for a new church home. And for the first time in more than a dozen years, I am thinking about criteria for joining up. My little family needs a church that

  • Is ok with messy families that can’t all stand up and make professions of faith together, even if one of the parents is headed into pastoral ministry
  • Has space for people who support their friends and family members in the quest for LGBTQ civil rights
  • Is willing to listen to those who have been wounded, hear the questions and needs behind the stories, and walk the road toward healing and restoration- however long it takes
  • Is open to the Holy Spirit leading faithful believers to a diversity of interpretations and expressions of their faith.
  • Has as many opportunities to breathe as it does to run
  • Chooses not to use “love” as a form of cheap grace
  • Holds in tension the need to get it right and the reality that we usually get it wrong

I know that’s a lot to ask. And I know that in a time of upheaval, churches may not really be putting their best faces forward. There are a lot of knees jerking and leaders responding as best they can in a time of fear and confusion.

But I also know what it looks like to enter into good conversations during a time of upheaval- the sort of conversation that fears loss of relationship integrity more than loss of face. The sort that is incredibly hard, but leads to healthy disagreement, rather than false unity. So show me a church where the conversation is punctuated by tears and hugs, offered by sincere people committed to doing the right thing by the sisters and brothers with whom they have served.

That’s the church I want to join.

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