Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leaving church

As we were driving my sister to the airport late Saturday she said, "I just wasn't ready for church. I had forgotten what it was like." She wasn't talking about when you're supposed to cross yourself during communion. She was talking about when the old lady accosted my younger sister who had been working for hours to prepare for the reception, and was bringing trays out to set up the buffet. "Young lady," said old lady, "you need to get a plate and get back in line." Sadly, that was not an isolated incident, and my poor siblings felt so bossed around and belittled that they had to go next door to our house where underage drinking ensued. (They're all 18 and up and were in the presence of responsible of-age drinkers, so don't worry too much)

We were truly blessed by our church community on Saturday. So many people not only turned out to witness our blessing, but also brought food for the reception, helped with the set up and clean up, showered us with generous gifts-- more than we could have ever imagined.

We love the people of that community and we felt very loved by them. The sort of generosity and fellowship that a gathered community like church can offer is such a rarity in today's individualistic society. But every one of our family and friends who were under the age of 40 found the whole "culture" of the event bizarre. Many people were friendly to them, and they could "feel the love," but they still felt excluded. Like the whole thing was in a language they couldn't speak.

It was so odd to end my church work in this way. It was a wonderful, intimate event. In case I haven't mentioned it before, we felt very loved by the community, and we are so grateful. And yet, even as I could feel that we had been important to this community, that they had been affected by our ministry, I also felt that same tug I so often feel, to take the wonderfulness that this place has been to me and translate it into something more accessible to all.

I could wax prophetic about power and hierarchy and institutional ambivalence (if you read my sermons, you'll notice that I often do), but frankly, I'm done wondering why the church is so alienating to people from my generation.

So I guess I better keep packing, because its time to get this party started.

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