I was reading one of my favorite blogs, and I came across this post: http://wouldashoulda.com/2008/03/13/sometimes-love-dont-come-easy/trackback . It's about the pretty, pretty Mir coming to terms with needing to leave her church. In the comments, I found this post: The Adventures of the Headless Family: What would you do? Boy, does this subject resonate. As you know, I got pregnant, and married, very young. At the time, church was not very important to me. I have always separated, in my mind, church and God. They're both important, but I feel like my relationship with God is enhanced by church, but the times in my life that I did not have a church, I did not feel as though I did not have God. After our son was born, we did not attend church or temple (my DH is Jewish), although we had a bris for our son. When DS was almost a year, I started feeling--something, and we had our son baptized. I did not have a great understanding of what baptism was at that point, in retrospect, I think I was using it somewhat as an insurance policy. We still did not belong to a church or temple.
When I was 19, I was looking for a way to make some money to help out our young family. I answered an ad in a local paper for a nursery attendant, and was hired to be in the nursery on Sunday mornings at a Lutheran church. (I had been raised Lutheran). A year or two later, I told my DH that I didn't care whether it was Jewish or Lutheran, but I wanted our son to be raised within a faith. DH wasn't in the same place I was, and we decided to raise our son Lutheran. I stopped being the nursery attendant, and started attending that church. Over the years, I taught Sunday School, headed committees, and got more and more involved. I always felt that God was leading me back to church when I came across that childcare ad. Lord of Life gave a lot to me, and I gave a lot to it. Lord of Life changed a great deal over the years. Gradually, it began to have an agenda that was not as family friendly, and families began to leave our church. Some issues with Sunday School came up that made me take a hard look at our church and I realized there were hardly any kids left. My oldest had 16? kids in his confirmation class, at the present state of our church, there were 19 kids who came to church regularly, in the 3 year olds through 6th grade Sunday school program. This was a great concern to me. Woven up in my concern was the fact that, although deeply religious through his childhood and early teens, my oldest has stopped believing in God. This causes me incredible pain, and is something I want to avoid with my other children, if I can. My children had attended preschool at a church-run program at a nearby, also Lutheran church, and their Sunday School program averages 20-25 kids per grade level! Obviously, a different situation. I started thinking about how much I wanted my kids to experience that feeling of community, of sharing something with their peers. I realized that because of the changes at our present church, it most likely was not going to grow in the families with young children category. So, after much soul searching, we started attending the "preschool" church. It is wonderful for my two youngest children. But there's a lot missing for my 15 year old and for me. The High School youth program is dismal. There's not a lot of support for it among the pastors. I've gone from a bad situation for my youngest two and a good situation for my 15 year old, to a great situation for my youngest two and a not-so-great situation for my 15 year old! Plus, the people are not very friendly at the new church. No one greets you after service, no one seems to even care if you're there or not. Another weird thing, to me, is that the children do not attend church there. It's not a rule or anything, in fact, the pastor's wish it were different, but it's just the way it is. The kids go to Sunday School while the parents go to that worship service. It definitely has it's flaws!
When we stopped attending our previous church, I met with the pastor, Pastor Jim, because he really meant a lot to me, and I wanted to explain to him what we were doing, and why. I had a 20 year relationship with him, that meant a lot to me, and I thought it was important for him to hear it from me. It was a very painful meeting. He really dumped on me. He said that the reason my oldest did not have faith was because he had watched me, and church was all about me. He said a lot of very hurtful things. He disparaged the church we were going to be attending, and was out of line. It really messed with my head. I just sat there, stunned. I even cried. I didn't stand up for myself at all. I didn't ask why his oldest son no longer attends church, if it's the parents fault. I didn't ask because I know it has nothing to do with him. I don't think my son's lack of faith has anything to do with me. My son is working on his PhD, and has always had it relatively easy in life. I think a lot of the academic world teaches that God is a myth, and my DS has eaten that up completely. I hope that somehow, someday, he will see the light (literally). But I cannot give that to him, I cannot force that on him. I gave him the foundation, it's up to him what he does with that.
When I was thinking about changing churches, I talked to a pastor at the new church. He told me you go where you are fed. Pastor Jim thinks that that is selfish, and not the way it should be. It makes a lot of sense to me. I do not believe that God cares where you go to church. He disagrees.
Pastor Jim forever changed something in how I will be able to relate to pastors. That makes me sad. I miss church. I miss a caring community (something our old church had stopped being before we left). I miss a lot of things. I know my 15 year old misses it. It's hard. I think I will never have that relationship again. I miss not attending the church where my last 3 children were baptized. I spend several Saturday evenings a month crying about the whole situation. I miss God. Somehow in all of this mess, my faith has slipped. It's like I "know" there's a God, but I no longer "feel" God. It's very painful, very personal, and I don't have any idea where it will end.