As Julie Andrews once sang, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…” Although I’m not sure that Sister Maria would have approved of this particular story. This is the story of how I parted ways with the church.
And yet, it isn’t. Because I’m not sure I really did.
I definitely didn’t part with the Church – my community of faith-filled friends and mentors. I didn’t part with my belief in or relationship with God, although my understanding of those things has broadened. But as my spirituality and theology have transformed, so has my relationship with the religious institution. Like many Millennials who were raised in the church, but who are in that awkward gap between attending with your parents and attending with your kids, I find it difficult to make my way there every Sunday morning.
If you’ve been on social media anytime in the past few years, or if you’ve ever googled “millennials church” out of curiosity, you may have noticed the surge of blogs, articles, academic studies, and sermons on this CRISIS. “Millennials are leaving the church in droves!” As church leaders, as parents, as grandparents – there seems to be a burden of responsibility inherent in this discussion. What can be done to stem the tide of young adults who are fleeing the very institution that represents the whole premise of their faith heritage? What can be done to save the church?
Over the course of this blog series, which Jackie has been kind enough to invite me to guest write for Selah, I hope to reframe this discussion by diving into the tensions in my spiritual identity. The fact that I am a person of faith, yet struggle on a daily basis to define that truth in my life. How I yearn for Christian fellowship yet find it difficult to attend church regularly, how my liberal theology is at odds with my conservative heritage, how I am a Christian who’s not always sure how proud I am of my “brothers and sisters in Christ”.
I won’t pretend to speak on behalf of all Millennials who grew up in the Church, because I know very well how diverse our experiences with religion and faith have been. Some of my dearest friends have charted a completely different course than me, and are currently long-term active members of a church community. I cherish that.
But I also have many more friends whose stories bear some semblance to mine: Still deeply connected to the religious institution through our relatives and mentors, yet slightly out of step with it ourselves. Fueled by Christian fellowship, but seeking and finding it mostly beyond the walls of the Sunday morning sanctuary. Searching for a practice of the spiritual disciplines that is renewed, and relevant to the shape of our lives and beliefs.
I hope you’ll find my story – as it’s told over the course of this blog – to be challenging, convicting, inspirational, and filled with hope for my generation of fellow believers. We don’t necessarily need saving, but we do need patience and encouragement as we seek God in our very own (admittedly untraditional) way.