I have been unchurched for almost 30 years. When I got divorced in the mid-80s, the church I'd attended for 15 years - the one where I'd served as a liturgical musician and youth retreat leader - didn't know what to do with me. Or maybe I didn't know what to do with it. When I moved from a small town in Oregon to a large suburb in Washington, I didn't seek a new church in my denomination or in any other. And the longer I stayed away, the easier it became. I remembered all the things about the church's doctrine that I didn't believe. There was some relief to my nonparticipation as I moved on with my life.
In recent travels I've been reminded of my separateness from a religious community. Three years ago, in Italy, I visited Assisi and learned about Francis, the bad boy who renounced his family's wealth and chose instead to live simply and walk in the footsteps of Christ. That would be love and service, I thought. I visited the Vatican and saw a lot of gold and thought about how many people that gold could feed. I visited art museums and felt grateful for the role the Catholic Church played in supporting Renaissance artists. On that trip I was able to clarify my convictions about the role of spirit and of religion and to release old guilts and resentments.
Last month I visited a village in Kenya where the people sacrificed a goat we had bought from them, drank its blood, and shared the meat with us. I noted the similarity to sacred rituals in churches and wondered whether those rituals happened first in villages or in churches. I'm pretty sure it was in villages, to celebrate love and community.
When I got home from Africa I was invited by a friend to attend a church service in a denomination I'd never known much about. I explored the website and decided to give it a try. From the moment I walked in the door I was comfortable. The service was a celebration of life and community, of love and service. I believed every word spoken during the service. I went back two more times. I still felt comfortable. People welcomed me and shared their own experiences. I have decided to attend this church.
It's been a journey traveling around the bases. I don't regret a single step. But I am glad to feel like I'm sliding into home.