I procrastinate when the thing I am supposed to do is unpleasant, or awkward, or boring. I procrastinate when my feelings are mixed and I'm not sure how to write about them. I really procrastinate when all of these things are true.
I definitely procrastinated this week, but I did go to church last Sunday. I just didn't like it, and it was hard for me to think of a way to write about the experience without sounding, indeed, like "The Church Critic".
This was my first experience with a Church of Christ, or CoC. One of my oldest friends was raised in this church in Arizona, and still feels connected with it. So, knowing a few things about them but really very little, I went.
I knew that they sang a capella. (I was not aware that this meant there was no choir, but I was prepared for the lack of any instrumentation at all.)
I knew they were more formal than most churches I'm accustomed to. This wasn't based on my friend's information, but on how her grandmother was when I would visit after school.
I should have talked to J a little bit more. But such is life. We have to wing it sometimes.
When I reached the church, I was a minute or so late. The parking lot was totally devoid of life, but full of cars. I checked the service times twice-- yes, their main service was at the time I thought. Walking into the doors, the hallway was empty save for one woman heading away from me. No one else was around. No sound. No chatter. Coming to the sanctuary doors, there was an order of service on a small table, and two men were talking a little bit. They ignored me utterly, though they both looked directly at me.
Walking into the sanctuary, I could see that who I assumed was the pastor was speaking, and the order of service was also displayed on a screen behind him. (The inside of the sanctuary was large and airy, with the wall behind the pulpit soaring high...lovely.)
Here is one problem, and this is only a problem for me (and others in my situation)-- I couldn't understand the speaker at all. The microphone amplification quality was so poor and echoing, I wondered to myself if any of the older congregants could understand him either. But that's my issue, and not a CoC or even church issue here.
The music director? Head singer? I'm not sure what one would call him, but he led us in singing. And every song that was chosen was slow. And dirge-like. And solemn. Is this typical? I don't know. I just tried to follow along. The church information explained that they sing a capella so everyone can fully concentrate, body and mind, on the teachings of God. But surely they're allowed some energy in their singing?
Then there was the sermon. Which was about how wrong homosexuality was. And how bad it was if a couple got divorced and remarried. And on. And on.
Not how to help single mothers or how to help families stay together.
Not how to guide people with love, or act Christ-like.
Just...lots of sex and immorality.
I did get a welcome packet. I did have one very, very sweet and quiet lady welcome me personally to the church. Her soft, gentle hand on my shoulder and her quiet smile make me smile in return, just thinking of her.
I'm sure you can tell why I am not being specific about which CoC this is. There is more than one CoC locally, and thousands elsewhere. I do not want to judge all, by how this one was. I understand from J that the churches she attended were more formal, and more judgmental. But those are her opinions. This blog contains mine, and I a) don't want to insult the members of this congregation and b) don't want to insinuate that they're all like this.
I do not mind the a capella singing. In further reading, I see that the CoC denomination is trying to recreate what they felt Jesus would have done for His first church, and how they believed and worshiped. Those are honorable intentions.
This church, at least on this Sunday, lacked one thing I believe others felt around Jesus. And that is joy. There was so little joy in the welcoming. There was no joy in the sermon. There was no joy in the music. I can handle being reproved or being taught uncomfortable lessons.
I cannot handle a lack of joy. Not when I remember how it felt to learn that Jesus was one friend I could always count on, and one friend who would never leave me. Not when I know the comfort He provides, or the blessings He did.
Sometimes it's easy to know what is not the right church home for me.