27 February 2012


Inspired by the post on "Home Churching" at the Episcopal Cafe
I'm chiming in as one of the family (Matt & I are siblings). I really like the idea of home-churching, what we do is not even as organized as what has been written about here.

I am very firmly an Episcopalian, raised in the faith, my husband was baptized and confirmed before we were married (but after we were engaged) because he wanted to be.

We have gone through 4 home churches since our marriage. The first we were married in, but we never really felt fully at home-- it was our college church and we were not as settled as most of the rest of the congregation.

The 2nd church was in Texas after my husband got his first job out of college. There were nice people there but the priest stood up and said in a sermon that AIDS was God's punishment against "the gays". I was devastated by that and ended up confronting him about what it meant to me when he did that, but that confrontation pretty much made me not want to invest much emotionally in that church.

Our 3rd church also had nice people in it, but they'd been struggling for years with how to pay the bills. My husband and I both spent a lot of time serving on the vestry and on a long-term planning committee only to see nothing change. After my son was born I gradually stopped going, the stress of being in a congregation that wouldn't change, but also was scraping by made going to church stressful. We supported the church financially for years even while we were not active members. The final straw came when I stopped pledging because we were going through a bit of a financial rough spot and there was no response from the church.

We were church-home-less for a few years, when the organist from our previous church invited us to her new church (she was also a refugee from church #3). We took her up on her invitation and now my husband and son go semi-regularly (husband is a lector and son is an acolyte) and I go about 3 times a year. For various reasons (being an extreme night owl & and extreme introvert among them) corporate worship is not something I can sustain in a healthy way. Maybe that will change in the future.

This leads back to home churching. Ever since my son was born, I have wanted him to have a sense of the spiritual paths available to him and in particular his Episcopalian heritage. In that sense I am a tribal Episcopalian. However, I can't duplicate my childhood. We had a great Sunday School program growing up. We spent an entire year when I was in Junior High just studying the book of John. However, a lot of my faith formation also came from my own interests. I read the entire King James version of the bible (including the genealogies) when I was a teenager, because I felt like it. I took "Bible as Literature" in High School and wrote papers on 2 of the major stories of the bible that feature women because I wanted to.

Just last week my son and I went to the Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday is my favorite holy day in the church calendar and I was talking to my son on the drive home about repentance and forgiveness and what they mean to me and how my concepts of them have grown out of my faith. He quoted Terry Pratchett back in response (there is a lot of theology skimming along the surface of Terry Pratchett's fantasy-satire) in a way that made it clear to me that he precisely understood what I was talking about. I won't quote it here as it has major spoilers for the end of the book, but if you get a chance, read Terry Pratchett's "The Truth".

All this boils down to my husband and I doing our best to try to live our faith in front of our son. To share what we get from having faith and to answer his questions as best we can and help him grow into a person of faith. We are not as organized about it as families that set aside a special day, or a special meal, heck if two of us eat together at a time that is worthy of celebration. I don't know if it is the world, or me that has changed since I went to Sunday school all those years ago, but the people who the most important to me are not the same as the people who go to my church. If my church closed its doors and disbanded, I wouldn't miss it. I suspect that sounds dreadful to some folks, but the fact of the matter is that my friends are the center of my life, and the communal 'worship' we do is gather together, share meals, and talk about our lives. My friends are a mix of atheists, pagans, taoists, and a few Christians of other denominations—some of them are deeply spiritual and some are very private about their faith, or lack-there-of.

I liked the comment that was made about home-churching being "... a missionary orientation in a part of the world where church-going and Christian practice is considered strange. Missionary families have been doing this for centuries..."

I don't know why I don't feel that going to church needs to be central to my faith. I do know that I had way too many years in a row where going to church left me feeling guilty and worn out and that is not something I need in my life. I feel the power of the holy spirit when I talk to my son about matters of faith: from why we give to the church and other charities, to the story behind the nativities I set up at Christmas. We try to get him to church often enough that, if in the future he wants to attend more regularly, he will not feel like a stranger.

I don't have any answers, but I have learned that what worked for my parents when I was growing up does not work for me now that I am the parent. I want the church to survive and thrive and I've put a lot of time, talent, and treasure into the traditional bricks and mortar church without ever feeling like it was my home.

I have found a way through by bringing my faith to my own hearth and that is the best I can do.

1 comment:

Mr. Brueghel said...

Are we related or something?