Monday, May 28, 2007

Not gonna apologize

Editted: I just wanted to make sure it isn't misunderstood. This post is not aimed at anyone who has comments posted on this blog. I enjoy getting comments that have a different opinion and discussing things. This is directed to the person(s) who has said that we are too picky and was offended by our beliefs.

To the person that was offended by my post yesterday, I'm not gonna apologize. When I started this blog I wanted to focus more on the paring down aspects of our life, but it's turned out to be a place where I can come and vent just a bit about what's going on in our adventure. So I have a hard time apologizing for our needs when it comes to a church. Instead I thought maybe I would explain how we ended up here and why we are soooooo picky.

It's gonna be long and not so pretty so consider yourself warned...

Paul wasn't Lutheran when we were married. He was a theistic evolutionist who had occasionally attended non-denominational and Baptist churches growing up. I was a non-practicing Lutheran who went to an LCMS church until I was 12. The first place I saw contemporary worship in a Lutheran church was at Concordia Irvine. Not what I remembered from my childhood and I still wasn't all that committed to going to church so I didn't really care much.

Up until the birth of our first child, neither of us really discussed religion much but that changed when Lorna was born. She had a genetic disorder that required surgery and I felt this need to have her baptized. We discussed it and that was the first time I realized how different our beliefs were. Of course, Paul didn't understand infant baptism and I didn't understand his idea of making a decision for Christ. In the end, the campus pastor came and talked to us and Paul decided it would be a good thing.

It was a small start. We tried a few churches in the area we were living in at that time but nothing worked. Years went by, we had lots of problems with money and life, I graduated from college, and we had another kid. After working at an insurance company for a few years I was frustrated and unfulfilled. We decided that maybe I should try teaching. Not what I went to school for but it would give me the opportunity to be with our kids more. We found an apartment closer to my job and Paul surprised me by saying we needed to start going to church. Now this wasn't out of the blue, we had talked about it many times, but our differences in belief were so different that it seemed too difficult.

He agreed to try the local Lutheran church. We got heavily involved in a short amount of time. Eventually becoming praise singers for the contemporary service although we still attended the liturgical service. At this time we had Malachi baptized and we both started adult instruction classes. The more we learned, and for me it was a refresher since I had attended an LCMS school, the more we questioned the practices of this church. To make this long story a bit shorter lets just say we saw what happens when an LCMS church decides it needs to be an outreach into the community. We watched as the services slowly lost the Bible readings, the reciting of the creeds, and focused more on being relevant for the times. Eventually the kids were shuttled off to children's church while the adults listened to an uplifting talk (sermon).

At this same time we had decided that I would quit working and that we would try homeschooling the kids. Malachi had been in daycare since he was 6 weeks old and it was a difficult transition for all of us. We were exceedingly unhappy at the church we were attending but since we were so involved it seemed impossible that we would leave. Ultimately we found you can't change a church, no matter how hard you try. We decided what we needed was something a bit more conservative. We were naive in thinking that this experience hadn't left a huge mark on the way we looked at things. Because of the changes we saw and the way they were implemented, we were very leery of a church that didn't strictly follow the hymnal.

Our next church was a place that we shouldn't have stayed at. We got hurt and people that we had a budding friendship with were hurt. We needed to be at a place that wasn't in transition but this church was, which wasn't the right place for us. In the end we found that we had made a huge mistake and left. It wasn't pretty and I only wish things could have been different.

The next place we attended was the church where we are currently members. It was a very good place for us, and still would be if it wasn't so far! We were able to regroup and start to heal. Unfortunately we couldn't stay there since Paul took a job transfer to Indiana.

I can't believe you are still with me!

We moved in the attempt to get a better handle on his job and finances. This was another tough move for us when it came to churches. We tried to find someplace close to a decent church but that's a difficult thing when you live 2000 miles from the place you are moving to. It was a good church but yet again in transition. The pastor was wonderful but the situation wasn't so great. We were all reeling from culture shock and in a church that had had a large split in the not so distant past. The church was in serious financial straits and we stayed against our better judgement. In the end, we once again hurt people we really liked and hurt ourselves as well. We still hadn't healed from the first church and this just added to our problems. We ended up attending a church an hour away, never really joining but going regularly.

Then Paul lost his job and was transferred to Western Colorado. That move was a nightmare, the place we ended up was worse, and there were no choices of churches. We tried one but it was just too much. I don't want to ever hear that we are an answer to a pastor's prayers again. Every time we have heard that it has turned out horribly. I admit it, we ran from this one. We had a very different idea about confirmation than this pastor did. Lorna had been confirmed and communing for about a year when we went there. This church didn't confirm this young and although they would accept her confirmation, there would be a problem with Malachi when he was ready. He would have to wait until he was much, much older. We were told it was the church's job to instruct the kids. Instead of fighting we left. There were other little things but this was the biggie.

So a year goes by, our life has turned into a nightmare, and Paul loses his job again. We move back to CA with the promise of a good job and we decide to make the 200 mile drive back to the one church where we felt at home. Now, we have seen some really interesting stuff over the last few years and not all of our experiences have been bad, but our church experiences have been molded by what we saw in that first church. We saw how the slightest innovation can be the beginning of something really bad. So we are picky, exceedingly picky. In order to accept something different you have to trust the pastor who is doing it. That trust is something that comes over time. So we continue to search, understanding we are never going to find a perfect church, they don't exist. But also understanding that we can only handle certain things. Trying to make ourselves stay somewhere that practices things that make us really uncomfortable is a sure way to make another mistake.

6 comments:

Jane said...

Kim, I'll continue to keep you all in my prayers. There are few things more destructive than being in a bad church situation. I know that all of the other stress that you're having would eel more manageable if your church situation was decent.

Kim said...

Thanks.

Our current church situation could be worse. We do have a good church with a faithful pastor available to us when we can get to Los Angeles. Once a month or so we do get fed. But both Paul and I realize this isn't the best situation, we all need to go more often. It been over 2 months since we were last able to attend due to doctors' appointment, and it's seems like forever.

elephantschild said...

Wasn't offended by what you said, and I wasn't asking for an apology or explanation. I don't think kid's sermons are necessary, and actually agree with you about the pathetic dumbing down for kids that takes place everywhere, not just in church.

I didn't mean be confrontational at all! Please know that I wasn't attacking your discretion in choosing a church. If only everyone was as careful!

I'm sorry you've had such a long road. My husband and I have both been deeply hurt by 3 different pastors (btwn the 2 of us).

Our current pr. may do Children's sermons, but he's a confessional FW grad. It's not the THING, it's whether the Word of God is being preached - and it definitely sounds like that was not happening in the church you visited, given the entire picture you described!

Kim said...

Elephant's Child

I didn't see your comments as confrontational and I'm sorry you got the wrong idea.

More to follow via email...

Cheryl said...

Kim,

I really appreciated hearing your story. It's amazing how many of us can relate painful church experiences. I don't think there is any reason for you to apologize for being careful and picky. You are only being honest. And the things that you mention are indeed red flags. I think that anyone who has "church shopped" has had the experience of walking into a church and immediately being able to say "no way." And when that happens you don't go back. But sometimes you say "maybe." If it's "maybe," my advice would be to go back a few more times and get a fuller picture. No church is perfect (and I know you're not expecting that). My husband is the cantor (worship & music minister) at a highly conservative, confessional and liturgical congregation. We don't have children's sermons or lay readers. We follow the historic liturgy. Yet someone might consider it a red flag that we print portions of the liturgy in a bulletin rather than doing the service straight out of the hymnal. Or that sometimes we have percussion instruments or my husband (gasp) plays his accordion! :-) But if they stick around for a while they find that those things do not signify at all that we are heading down the contemporary worship path. Instead they signify my husband's efforts to make our worship truly catholic (small c).

Sorry this is so long. I pray for the Lord's guidance as you continue on this journey.

Presbytera said...

{{{{Kim}}}} It breaks my heart that you aren't near a church which feeds you. I commend you and Paul, Lorna and Malachi to our Father's loving care.

We had an awful time finding a church which did the liturgy in the city of Cleveland which has over 40 LCMS churches in a short driving distance. I know your struggle well.