A few things have happened over the last few weeks... My G came home after an extended TDY (temporary duty), I attended a joyous family wedding, and we fought off a sense of malaise and exhaustion.
I've still been reading, though, and thinking, and deciding what to write.
And what I keep reading and thinking about has a lot to do with religion. Not faith, unfortunately, but religion. I read about Hollywood actors and famous people who are atheists; even people who call themselves "evangelical atheists" (no, I'm not making that up). I talked to a coworker friend who said she had family members who would practically disown her for deciding to visit a church unlike the one in which she was raised.
And I really don't get it. Maybe it's because of this project, but I'm thinking about God and religion and faith in a different (clearer?) light lately. And it's not about the religion.
So far, I've visited Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Missionary Baptist, Apostolic, Catholic and Non-Denominational churches. And the overarching theme of the ones that make the most difference in people's lives has nothing to do with the whys and wherefores of the religion itself, and everything to do with the way God shines through the people in the church.
My coworker friend and I decided to visit another coworker friend's church, because B had been wanting to try something new. Anna's husband happens to be the Pastor of their church, and she welcomed us with enthusiasm. When we drove up, Pastor David was waiting for their daughter to arrive, and welcomed us warmly, even walking us over to the sanctuary and chatting with us a while. We were greeted by nearly everyone in the church at different times before, during, and after the service, and it was a treat to see Anna in a different role from the one we see her in at work. My favorite part was watching Pastor David with the children's time. His message was timely and it made me think. His ending question, asking what we are bound to, if it's not to God -- well, I am still mulling that one over in my head.
It was a really wonderful service. I hope B continues to go there, as she met new friends and really seemed to fit in with everyone.
But even as we left, B was saying that she had family members who would really be against her changing churches. It seemed they felt she wouldn't find or follow God if she went to a different church with different routines and rituals. I remember hearing much the same thing, growing up.
Religion, it is true, has been the basis for many a heartache, many a war. But finding God isn't about religion. Finding God is about faith. Going to church is sharing that faith, strengthening and challenging that faith. Bringing the message of God outside the church into our homes, into others' lives -- the messages of love and service.
It's not about the candles or the ways we pray or the songs we sing or the hair we grow or the length of the skirts or the kneelers or the wine vs grape juice... It's about service and community. And it's about love.
And I must say, I felt a lot of it in that church that week, with Pastor David and Anna.