Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Changing Churches (part 1, probably)

I'm in the process of changing churches.

It's a little surprising, even to me.

I'm not only changing congregations, I'm changing denominations.

If you read the last year or two of this blog, it's clear that I've been unhappy. In some ways I'm unhappy with the larger church, in other ways it was with a particular congregation.

Not everything about this change will be for public consumption. So much of this decision has to do with me and my failings as well as the failings of the church. I want to be careful not to air dirty laundry. Still, I feel like I want to unravel it somehow. Not unravel, untangle. Sort it out.

There are questions of identity involved. I'm Lutheran. I don't know that I'll ever not be Lutheran. Yet, here I am, signing up for the "Inquiry Group" of this Episcopal congregation. Will I ever be Episcopalian?

And yet, I recall at least two other times in my adult life, when I nearly left the Lutheran communion. Once was in my mid-twenties when I became enamored of the Roman Catholic church and even started the process of becoming RC. And then I didn't. It was a strange moment, but it was almost like throwing a switch. I was becoming RC one week, the next I was back in a Lutheran church.

The second time I nearly left the Lutheran church was during my failed attempt at becoming un-churched. This was about 10 years ago, when all my theology fell through a suddenly opened, previously hidden trap door. I went about saying, "I still believe in God, I just don't know what I believe about God." I moved to Chicago for grad school and tried not to go to church and still found myself in a pew at least twice a month. I lived in a neighborhood with four Lutheran churches and none of them felt right. The last six months or so that I was in Chicago, I attended the neighborhood Episcopal church---which I admit was very comfortable, very much a place to explore my un-churched-ness at the time. I never joined. I graduated and moved back to Texas, but there's no doubt that had I stayed in Chicago, I would have become Episcopalian then.

So maybe this is just a delayed inevitability.

I've said it feels like I'm breaking up with someone, getting a divorce. I have no idea what a divorce feels like, but all the feelings of disappointment and disillusionment must be somewhat similar to what divorcing folk feel. In retrospect, this was a marriage I was sort of pushed into, that I wasn't sure about from the beginning, but I went into it, even experienced some periods of hopefulness that I might finally settle in there.

But the hopefulness and settled feeling never lasted long. I gave it eight years. The last year or two, it came to a head and something needed to change.

So I'm changing congregations, even denominations.

The uncertainty and fear that I feel in this moment feels like the kind of uncertainty and fear that is pregnant with creativity. Possibility. It feels right.

It's going to take some processing. Maybe doing it publicly will help someone else. Maybe it's just an exercise in public self-reflection and no one cares.

But here we go. It's a definite new chapter in my life.