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.