Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sorting through some things

I am starting this blog because I need to sort through some things. But first, some background:

I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene. I went to a Nazarene university for two degrees, and, at one point was planning to become ordained in the Nazarene church. Through series of events (that may come up later), I decided pastoral ministry wasn't for me; my place was in the academy.

I ended up a bit (okay...very) dispossessed and really wanted no part of church and all of it's ugliness. Finally, I did want to go back to church, but never could find the right one. After a few years, my husband B and I started attending a Lutheran (ELCA) congregation. The service was a contemporary/informal service, still far more formal than church growing up. However, the liturgy, while relaxed, was very present.

We moved, and I felt strangely sad about leaving that church--a place I felt could have been a church home for me. We tried various Lutheran (ELCA) churches in the area and none felt "right." So, we decided to try one I had heard of, even though it was a bit further away. We liked it. It was unlike any Lutheran church we had attended. There was a full band; they sang contemporary songs. There was no organ. The congregation didn't do responsive readings or creeds in a robotic voice. And when the time came for communion, they said all were welcomed regardless of denominational background or faith journey. Which meant, I could take the Lord's Supper even though I had never been baptized.

We quickly got involved in a small group, one called 20-somethings--young adults, mainly couples. It was nice to know other people more than passing the peace to the same person each week. These people became friends--something I had not truly had in quite a while. They were genuine in their love of God. Going to church, for them, was more than something you do because it's socially acceptable or a way to network. At the same time, they were not slaves to legalism. They sometimes used curse words. They drank beer. No, they weren't drunken and vulgar. They were human. I needed this.

Last October, I was baptized. I joined my ELCA congregation and I accepted what God had already done for me in Christ. My small group members were my sponsors, and I officially made my switch to the ELCA.

For a long time, I have tried not to be too enmeshed in the Lutheran denominational structure. I saw the ugly side of denominational politics in the Church of the Nazarene--both in the general church and at the local level. I wanted no part. However, the Lutheran (ELCA) church recently held their Church Wide Assembly and I had received a heads up that they were discussing some big issues, largely around human sexuality, both generally and how it pertains to clergy. I was encouraged that they were having this conversation--a conversation that would have never taken place in my former denomination. I became fascinated by the meetings and votes, and before I knew it--I knew more than I wanted to about the ELCA.

So, now, I am asking myself a lot of questions--questions that I don't necessarily want to share with my small group members and those at my church. These questions are why does my local church consider itself Lutheran when Lutheran theology and liturgical practice are absent? Do I want a local church that is "good enough" and has been great in getting me back into church? Is it okay that my church is generically Christian--almost non-denominational (minus the sign out front)? Or do I want something that is more distinctly Lutheran, and if so, what does this mean for me? Perhaps more importantly, what does this mean for me and my husband, who is comfortable where we attend church, now? How do we blend the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual needs of both of us, even when those may be very different?*

These are the things I need to explore. Will you take the journey with me?

*I am working on my PhD in systematic theology. In saying "intellectual needs," I am not trying to think of myself as somehow smarter or more intellectually capable. However, by nature, I am a critical theological thinker. How can we address my need to be critical and have *good* theology at church and my husband's position as lay person with average theological knowledge and interest.


  1. thanks for sharing your journey and struggles and questions with us. it's refreshing to see people who aren't afraid to ask questions when there are so many folks who think they have all the answers.

  2. Thanks for the encouraging words. I'm not really eloquent here; this captures more of a "thinking out loud" process. But so far, it's been helpful to put down on a screen what is really on my mind.