A few months ago my wife and I stopped going to Southeast Christian Church. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a good church, we have friends there (and William, who is a part of our cohort, serves as an elder there), we’d been going consistently there for a year or so before we left, and we have a history with that church going back at least to early 2004. But we live out on the edge of society here in Eagle Mountain, a 45-minute drive away; this distance, with our work schedules, and our two-year old, Maya, made things a bit inhibitive, especially for my wife. We couldn’t connect up with people and events to really spend time and build relationships. We had tried a local church once before, a little independent fundamentalist Bible church plant for a couple of years, but that didn’t really work out. Since then another church plant has come into the area, so we thought we’d have a go with it, Coram Deo, officially with the Assemblies of God. This would allow us to work in and build relationships with people in our community.
For my wife it’s a good place to go. The pastor and the people are great, and there are a bunch of kids for Maya to have friends growing up. And it is unique I think in that we have a meal with every service; we all sit down and eat lunch together and enjoy each other’s company (this meal together may change a bit for its new evening service, but we’ll see). Eating together isn’t something rare, and people don’t run out the door just after service is over (as they so often unfortunately did at Southeast Christian).
But for me… I guess I have an itch that needs scratching. All these churches I’ve been going to are conservative, and ahistorical (as in they recognize the church in Acts, and then came some later-day movement, whether it be the Reformation, the Stone-Campbell Restoration, or Azusa Street, everything in between is ya-know… kind of a mystery mixed with apostasy). The focus and heart of the Sunday service, and most else, is the sermon. So anyway, over the past few years, I’ve been reading up stuff on or by the early church and not seeing much of it in our modern church, and reading up on postmodern philosophy and finding that I agree with much of the picture it is painting of the world I live in. It occurred to me that I needed to step out of my mental box, take a look around, and do church differently, to think differently, to stretch, and maybe do a little liturgy. And since I’ve read a handful of Anglican theologians and resonate with what they say, I’ve decided to go to an Episcopal church.
So for the past what… couple of months now, I’ve been going to St. James Episcopal Church. It’s just been me. My wife and daughter have been going to our local Coram Deo. Once the sacrament of coffee closes out at the Episcopal Church on Sunday morning, I drive off to lunch at Coram Deo with the family. And now with their new additional evening service, I will be active and finding ways to serve at both churches; the Episcopal one in the morning, and our local Pentecostal church plant in the evening.
I think it’s interesting this mix of things. I feel like I’m a conservative at the Episcopal Church. The diocese is theologically liberal, and it openly accepts members who are gay, but since it’s not centered on “doctrinal correctness” it has a flexibility that allows room for those who disagree with some of the liberalness. At Coram Deo I feel like I’m a liberal. The church tends toward a more-or-less literal view of the Bible, i.e. creationism, Jonah really was swallowed by a fish, etc., where I lend to a more metaphorical view in many areas of the Bible. In each there are people with problems, issues, and points of view (among whom I am most certainly included), as well as big hearts, in each we are struggling to love each other and love God; one church is no better than the other. Between the tradition of liturgy and ritual in the one, and something much more freeform in the other, the different ways of approaching the Bible, the church’s history, and how to understand this mysterious God we worship, this diversity and contrast, gives me much to think about, wrestle with, and learn.
I think I’d recommend doing something like this for everyone. We need to step outside of our mental maps. To look at things from a different angle, to try new things, or should I say some old things that we have neglected to do. And not just to visit, but to spend some time, and get to know people. Not to just accept any one particular way of seeing, doing, or experiencing, but to test things by really seeking to understand the other.