I know I was going to work on Faith later in the year, but on a whim I decided to attend church this Sunday.
It’s called The Gathering, which sounds a little creepy and culty, but that’s sort of the trend with any younger, larger church these days. Also, I grew up in a church where people speak in Tongues and fall over and read Left Behind, so nothing can really faze me these days, outside of blatant bigotry and political stuff that makes me nauseous.
It’s weird to grow up in the world that I did and then swap that for Webster University. I feel like I was exposed to the best and worst of both worlds, and while I’ve explored this topic before on my blog, these days I just get sad and angry about it. Why do I have to choose between them? Why can’t I fit into both? That’s what I’m trying to find out.
The biggest goal was to find a place where I could just hang on Sundays, without all the extra baggage. I hate how political churches have become, but I also miss certain elements about the church, and I get pissed when people think that because I pray, I’m a total idiot or a crazy homophobe. My friends make cracks about “religious nutbags” all the time, and I don’t think they realize that there are ways to insult the crazies without lumping me in with them. Plenty of people are Christian in the way that I think it was intended–people who smile and help and encourage and act all around Christ-like without the pushing or the judging. People don’t realize those kinds of Christians exist because those Christians do it through actions, rather than through force and pissing people off.
The Gathering is Methodist, which is a first for me. So far, I love it! Here’s why The Gathering may actually convince me to go back to church:
- I’ll start with the most entertaining: The Gathering made national headlines last month by collecting all the Albert Pujols clothing that angry Cardinals fans wanted to throw away after he signed with Angels. The clothes were then donated to homeless shelters in the L.A. area. I like when good deeds are also smart and hilarious.
- I have friends in the church already! One from work and one that I’ve known since middle school. They are the kind of Christians that I really want to be–kind and full of life, without and any judgement and venom. Knowing that people I respect and admire attend that church is a testament to what they encourage there.
- The biggest reason I haven’t gone back to church is politics: mainly, I hate the way they talk about gay people. While the UMC as a whole is still iffy about the subject (their official documents claim that “homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth,” which is cool, but it also still discriminates in many gross ways), there are plenty of movements happening and I feel like they’re heading in a good direction. It really varies from church to church, so we’ll see. I can’t see my friends tolerating a homophobic church, though.
- The only gay wedding I’ve attended took place in a Methodist church.
- The first sermon I heard was about how it’s okay to be skeptical and ask questions without blindly following–practically the opposite of what the church I grew up in encourages. (For example, that church calls people you meet in college “Intellectual Predators”. What?)
- Their service combines some familiar elements from the church I grew up in, like contemporary music (with my friend on drums!), but also things I like from other religions, like the itinerary. (When you grow up in a church led by The Holy Ghost, service hours are 10 til Question Mark!)
- No tongues, people falling over, raising of the hands or other Holy Ghost touches. Again, I’m totally used to that stuff, but I’d like to occasionally bring my fiance to a church that doesn’t completely terrify him.
- It has the youthful, contemporary vibe of today’s megachurches, but they meet in a tiny, charming church and split the service between two locations and three different times, so it feels communal and intimate like a church should. The crowd was a decent size, made up of people of all ages. (I get creeped out when I see ONLY young or old people in a congregation, and the other churches I tried last year, like the Quakers, were groups of 30 people or less.)
- They seek to practice more than preach. According to the UMC website, “The early members of the groups that eventually became The United Methodist Church:
took strong stands on issues such as slavery, smuggling, and humane treatment of prisoners;
established institutions for higher learning;
started hospitals and shelters for children and the elderly;
founded Goodwill Industries in 1902;
became actively involved in efforts for world peace;
adopted a Social Creed and Social Principles to guide them as they relate to God’s world and God’s people;
participated with other religious groups in ecumenical efforts to be in mission.”
I probably won’t talk about church much here (you’re welcome, Webster friends), but I plan on exploring what it means to be a Methodist and if this church is a place where I really want to be a member.
And in case you’re wondering, my Religious Views on Facebook read, “The kind of Christian who likes gay marriage, natural selection and bringing tote bags to the grocery store.” Basically, I’m Nick: