My husband and I are going to become members of our church.
The timing couldn't be better. Or worse, depending on how you look at it. The cultural moment is not exactly ripe for church membership, after the World Vision shenanigans of last week proved yet again that Christians are a flawed and divisive bunch. While some Evangelicals circle up their wagons and others decide to leave the fold for a new frontier, we have opted to stake our claim on the plot of promised land beneath us.
The difference between being in attendance and being a member is largely psychological, I've been told. It's the difference between "them" and "us". Between, "Well isn't this a nice place to worship?" and "Shoot. There's water leaking through the kitchen ceiling." (I wish I was making that problem up.)
A church of convenience, I'll heartily attend. I'm not sure if I want to take on a church of problems.
Two Saturdays ago, we attended membership class and learned about the United Church of Christ . As our pastor shared, I thought about my parents attending a Nazarene church when they were newlyweds 30+ years ago. They would change churches many times over the course of their marriage and eventually land in a charismatic camp by the time I arrived on the scene, and their curved road of religion makes me wonder about the home church for our someday-kids; whether they'll know Congregational structure, or some other flavor of Christianity.
I wonder where we'll find God in 5, 10, 15 years.
I wonder if it's worth committing like this when we don't know where the wind will blow our sails.
Being a Christian nomad has its perks. I've set my beliefs well within the territory of the Nicene creed and tithed an occasional $20 to a nonprofit or a needy friend as the Spirit leads. I've also attended Catholic mass and skipped services entirely, because God lives in those places, too.
I know what it's like to turn Scripture into a quiz, a testimony into a 5 page paper, and prayers into a spiral-bound Mead journal that your Bible teacher grades at the end of the year. I know how to do Christian performance. It's been refreshing to turn the routine on its head for the past couple years and search for God in the unexpected spaces.
But of course, even while I lived like a nomad, I had my tribe. L'Arche was perhaps the best "church" I'll ever call home. We belonged to each other in a fundamental and necessary way. If I did not wake Rose up at 6:30am, she would miss her bus for work. And if Rose did not smile and mutter "Wacy Wacy" to me when she got off that same bus at the end of the day, there wouldn't be much incentive for me to get out of my own bed and do it all over again the next morning. At L'Arche's best, there was trust and interdependence and mutuality.
I'm trying not to hold my new church to that standard.
I know they're not the same thing. We don't live alongside the members of our congregation. Unless there are scheduled coffee dates or surprise sightings around town, a 2-hour weekly window is all we have to form bonds of belonging and shared belief.
But I will say that this morning, there was brunch after the church service, so we got out of bed a little early in order to pick up soup. We needed to pick up that soup so that our friends and fellow flawed Christians could eat and be nourished after meditating on the Word, the Bread of Life. When our fellow flawed Christians are nourished-in every sense-we create trust, interdependence, mutuality. It's not perfect, but it's a start.
We set the heavy pot of beef and vegetable stew on the stove and I noticed again the hole in our kitchen ceiling, the same one that was leaking after church last week. I smiled with relief to see that this week, it was dry.
And then I smiled a second time, because when problems go from "theirs" to "mine," real membership can begin.