I have visited many churches and sometimes been inspired by the preaching, sometimes moved by the worship, sometimes touched by the sense of community but I have never quite felt at home. I have always had a slight sense of isolation as I sit in my seat and the service unfolds. I start wondering about the person next to me and wonder what their life is like and how they are touched and moved by God but when the service closes and we speak, it is only of surface things and the depths within both of us remain untouched.
Occasionally someone has wanted to know what bought me to their church and when I have said God told me to come, they have given me a puzzled look and said “You mean you felt you should come.” And I repeat “No, God told me to come!” And I wonder but stop myself from saying “Doesn’t God speak to you too?” On other occasions people have asked me directly “Are you a Christian?” Oh how I hate labels! Of course the person wants to know whether I recognised myself as a sinner and asked God to help me with my life on a specific day at a specific time. Well, as it happened I did but there was so much more. On that day I opened myself to the great mystery that me and God are indeed one. Since that day we have walked and talked and laughed and cried together as I have walked the twisty turny journey of my life. To reply to the question “Are you a Christian?” I would incur the same pain as if someone asked me “Are you a wife?” or “Are you a mother?” How deeply impersonal and how wounding to my soul.
At a different sort of church people don’t seem bothered at all by such matters. In fact the minute the service closes it is as if we haven’t been in church at all. The conversation is only of how well you timed your roast dinner to be ready and who is making teas at the village fete. The word ‘community’ is used a lot and there is much ‘doing’ and organising. But, I think to myself – I am hungry deep down in my sprit – hungry for some touch of another soul, hungry for connection, a moment of realness. I want someone to hear me, I want someone to see me but I feel invisible. I want to hear and see another but there is no chink of vulnerability big enough for me to crawl through. I shake the vicar’s hand, respond to the comment about how my son has grown and pass down the church steps, unnoticed and unknown. I had so many thoughts, feelings, ideas, gifts and talents that I wanted to bring but there is no room for such things here. I came to meet others on their amazing journey of faith but I wasn’t met.
Where can I go now? Like many of us, the answer is ‘nowhere’. On a Sunday morning I will stay home in the warmth and intimacy of my family. I will go walking in the hills and fields near our home and watch the flocks of sparrows chattering in the hedges. I will make junk model dinosaurs with my son and listen to him giggling with glee when we can’t seem to make the head stick on the body. I will do anything to make life flow through my body, interest my mind, light up my emotions but I will not go to church where I feel no life and my soul simply goes to sleep.