Something has been bothering me since yesterday morning, y’all, and I’m not (just) talking about the flu-like symptoms from getting my shot for the year on Friday. I went to church again yesterday, but this time I went to that one that I felt was calling out to me the other week. I’m glad I went, but I don’t think I’ll be heading back. It’s just… not quite what I have in mind as my personal approach to the faith. The music was of a more contemporary nature, which I am told is a once a month thing for them. Fine, I can deal with sleeping in one week out of four I suppose, but the space just didn’t feel like my idea of a church, really.
I was more moved by the recording of Tallis’ Spem in Alium that played in my car on the way home than the music that was sung at the service. I’ve always felt a little more traditionalist in my approach to church services – hymns with organ (or a cappella), a quiet, focused, and frankly beautiful space away from reminders of daily life, all of that. The church I went to yesterday had none of that. If anything, it was quite the opposite.
More than that, though, the words of someone I met while I was there stuck with me since then and, fairly or unfairly, have cemented this particular church in my mind as one that I do not wish to become a member of. In the Episcopalian tradition, there is a moment in the service where everyone goes around and greets each other. I can’t speak to any other denominations, but that’s how we do it; as a side note, I’m not entirely sure I’m Episcopalian, but that’s the nature of every service I’ve been to since leaving the East Coast so it forms my frame of reference these days.
Anyway, as a visitor to the church I stuck out like a sore thumb. During this moment in the service, I was approached by someone who said they have been attending the church weekly for most of this year, and yet still claimed to be an outsider – a visitor, just like me. I’m sorry, but what? You can go to this church for months and still not be a member? I’m sorry, that just feels wrong to me and against the spirit of “All are welcome” that forms the foundation of the church in my mind.
Now, I don’t know anything about this person other than the brief conversation we had, so it’s possible that this is just a special case. Nevertheless, it’s all I have to go by. That and the fact that apparently they have a three course series on joining up – which are spread out over weeks at a time. They announced as much during the service.
It certainly didn’t feel like much of a welcoming place, no matter how many people the welcoming committee happened to introduce me to. (This is also in spite of apparently the welcoming committee trying to set me up with an 18 year old member of the congregation sight unseen, which is kind of cringeworthy and creepy in its own right… but then again, when did I ever know about this sort of thing? Half your age +7 people!)
Contrast this with the church I attended last week. The pastor himself was giving everyone a hug and said outright that there was a place for me if I wanted it. There didn’t seem to be any silly distinctions between members and guests as far as I could tell. Just those of us that were there.
All I know is, more exploration is required before I can decide on something.