RECENTLY I MADE the 400-mile move from Chicago—where I lived for 10 years—back to my hometown in Michigan.
This, of course, meant leaving the congregation that had become my church home—Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston, Illinois—and beginning the search for another.
I knew there’d be no replacing the unique mix of people that made me choose Grace as my spiritual family, but I was optimistic that I might find a place where my biological family could spend the next few years.
I already knew and admired a pastor in the area, and her church was very active in the community—something that had been an important part of my spiritual life at Grace.
Lively worship, witty pastor
After a few Sundays at this new congregation, though, the worship just wasn’t speaking to me. I decided to try out another congregation—one with much more lively worship, and a pastor who delivered smart and witty sermons.
But—like many ELCA congregations—this congregation lacked the diversity that is important to my mixed-ethnicity family. And, at 32, I looked like I was the youngest adult in the room. Where were the people my age?
This church-shopping experience has got me asking questions about what it means to find a church home.
What do we go to church for, anyway? Are we going to find a place where we will feel welcomed and spiritually challenged? Or we going to find a place where we can make a difference?
Should I continue looking for a congregation that’s 10, 20, 30 miles away when the church down the street is doing the difficult work of loving and serving the neighbors who live right next door?
When a friend nearby posted pictures of the pet blessing at her Episcopal congregation, I got church envy. Should I try a new denomination? Would I miss the Lutheran theology I’d come to love? Did it even matter?
The search is still on, and I’m sure the Spirit will guide me where I need to be.
But in the meantime, I’ll keep seeking and pondering.
What makes your congregation the right choice for you? What would you look for if you had to find another?
Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather magazine.
After moving many times in my twenties and being about to enter my thirtieth year, I’ve thought about this many times. It has recently been revealed to me, however, that it is not about what we are seeking to get from a church that is important, it is what we are willing to pour into the church that matters. We can’t continue to be Christian consumers- we must be contributors to the body and to the Kingdom!
Hi, I have been a member of my current congregation since the beginning (55 years). I find that the Liturgy continues to be “watered down” – I was brought up with the old black Common Service Book and Hymnal, and I love the beautiful language. I miss all the Introits and the words of the Institution and Forgiveness. The “modern” translations just don’t do it for me. Unfortunately, I’ve been to both Episcopal and Roman Catholic services in our town, and they are doing the same thing. I have always felt that the Church should be the center, unmoving and traditional. I guess there are few if any churches who still worship in that style. A survey of the congregation showed “Fellowship” and “social events” as the most important aspect of church life. I still believe that the main purpose of a church/congregation is WORSHIPING GOD. If that is the center of the church, than all the other things – stewardship, “good works”, and being part of a larger congregational family will come naturally.
Thanks for this very timely article. I have been trying for over 6 months to find a church in my area.There are three I have been considering because of the programs they carry beyond and including the Sunday worship services. Our active Synod office has a weekly (Wednesday) communion service which has filled that most important need.
The variety of ages continues to be a challenge. Not just for the future of the church but for the different perspectives on all elements of “church”. As I become the older generation (60 too Susan) I want to be involved with those who will carry the church forward. I’ve learned so much from those older than me over the years. If those younger
aren’t here then should I go looking?
Susan, I guess I like the formality of the doctrine, although a lot of churches have had such a decline in members that still come to church, ours too. It looks like it’s more exciting to go to the more entertaining one, but myself I love that the scriptures can apply to our life today. I will stay where I’m at until it’s virtually impossible to do so. We all stay where we feel closer ro the Lord. You’ll find the right fit for you, I’m sure. Regards..Jane
Thanks, Jane. I totally agree that “We all stay where we feel closer to the Lord.” I hope I’ll find that for myself soon!
This is a timely post for me. At age 60, I find myself in two new towns– one in Michigan, one in Florida. A recent retiree, and new “snowbird”, I’m trying to settle into two new churches. I’m still trying to find my new church homes, and don’t have the answers. I am looking for a diverse population, variety of ages, community involvement, interesting and relevant sermons, at least some modern music, and a welcoming spirit. I have tried other churches, but struggle with denominations that stray from the “faith by grace” doctrine. A gift, not something we earn or deserve. Good luck in your search…I pray that I will “settle in” soon!
Best to you as you search too, Susan! I hope we both find somewhere that works for us soon!