The following is a reflection-turned-blog post that I wrote so that I could clearly define some of my scatter-brained thoughts on church. I’ve spent the last few months actively trying to avoid going to church, because every time I went I left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Over the summer I became increasingly critical of the church I grew up in and still attend when I’m home. By August I almost hated who I had become in regards to church. Sure, there were things in my church that legitimately deserved a critical eye. But there were a lot of things that didn’t and I was having trouble seeing the difference anymore. My response was, when I moved back to college, to stop going to church because I didn’t know how to be in that space anymore. Finally I attended a new church and it was a breath of fresh air; but I didn’t know how to be in that space either. I’ve been a member of the same church for all twenty years of my life; I don’t know how to attend another church in my hometown faithfully without feeling guilt. It was also difficult logistically for me to often attend that second church, which led to my being even more uncomfortable in any space labeled “church.” I just wasn’t sure that with all my new ideas of feminism, liberalism, progressivism (ok, that’s probably not a word), that I ever could fit in that space again. A few weeks ago I realized that maybe the space wasn’t the only problem, but my lackadaisical attitude about it as well. So I decided to go to church. I went to two. One definitely was not my space, but the second could be. But then I went to a third church, and something wonderful happened:
Today, for what I’m sure is the first time ever, I heard a preacher say that Jesus was progressive toward women. That he protected them. That he radically broke customs to talk to women as a Rabbi.
And I was stunned.
Perhaps I should clarify something. The man wasn’t a “preacher” per se, that’s my evangelical non-denominational vocabulary coming through. He was a reverend, because today this southern evangelical girl went to an Episcopalian church. Today I kneeled in prayer, took actual wine for communion, and almost crossed myself (except I don’t exactly know the gesture well enough to do it without embarrassing myself so I refrained).
And I was refreshed.
Today I followed along to a service that was printed on a bulletin in my hand almost in its entirety. Every prayer, every response, every scripture was already printed for me. I didn’t have to scramble to take notes or rifle through the pages of my bible to keep up with the sermon or make sure I remembered every facet of the five-point sermon. But still I had to focus.
And I learned.
I learned, more than ever, that Jesus truly was a radical but he also respected and adhered to tradition. I learned the joy of reciting the Nicene Creed and knowing that believers all around the world were doing the same. I learned that Jesus most likely smiles on my feminism.
Because an ordained man stood behind a lectern in church and taught that Jesus honored and respected women and there were no “buts” or “ifs” or any other conditionals.
Because two women performed obvious leadership roles in the service, visible and welcome by the entire congregation.
Because I was offered holy communion wine by a woman, an experience that would never happen in my home church.
Most importantly, I learned that there is still space for me – a liberal young feminist who currently questions everything – in the Church. Maybe it’s not the church I grew up in, maybe it’s not the evangelical church, and maybe it’s not even the Episcopalian church, although I can’t wait to return to that parish for Holy Communion next Sunday. But in the Church that is ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven, there is space for me.
There is space for you.
And I am glad.