Monday, July 9, 2012


Saturday night I enjoyed the culmination of Road Rally, and annual event for the youth at my church. It is essentially a scavenger hunt on wheels which ends at a church members house we we camp-out and have a service. The group returned to church the next morning, some tired and some overwhelmingly excited for the special guest of the morning: our old minister was going to be giving a guest sermon. If I went to a christian church, one would have thought Jesus was about to enter the building. Perhaps the largest contingent of youth that has ever attended a service they have not been designing sat in the front row (well, actually some of us sat on the floor to provide chairs to others). The sanctuary was the fullest I have ever seen it in my life (and my life is longer than that of the church, at least this building). At first, I was mesmerized by this turnout and the resounding first hymn (which happened to be one one of my favorites). It bordered on magical to feel that powerful a sense of community again in a place that has felt dead to me for so long. I love my church, which has been one of the safest, most accepting, and most fun places to grow up, but it has, for a while, felt decidedly devoid of the magic, intensity, and community that I remember from my childhood. Part of that is growing up, everything seems less romantic than it did when I was six, but much of it was a loss of spiritual and societal grounding when we lost our long-time minister and his family. They were a driving force in our church community the entire time I was there. He came the sit with my parents in a waiting room while I was in surgery; his wife came to "tea" with my mom and I every spring; I took art classes with his daughter. Like a grandparent the dies when you are young, I remember this man and love him, but I am being forced to admit that I never really knew him, and certainly do not now. For a long time, I have fantasized about moving close to his new congregation in California, and of one day having him officiate my wedding (which, ironically, was part of while he was there, marrying the brother of one of my best friends to another friend's older sister's best friend). And as he gave his sermon, which discussed us being on the precipice of the "Emerald City" (we are about to welcome a new, permanent minister) I started to cry. Partly because of the beauty of everyone coming together, but partly because of how wrong he is. Seven years ago, we stood before that city's gates, having built a new church and started a new era. But, seven years later, he can still bring us together in a way we have never been able to manage ourselves. Clearly, we are doing something terribly, terribly wrong. I am also being forced to face a feeling I have known I had for a long time, but always tried to ignore. I'm confident that he and his family leaving was the first time I ever really felt abandoned by someone I cared about. I didn't understand at the time, and quite frankly still don't, why we (and in my younger mind, me, specifically) weren't good enough for him. Since his departure, I have seen four more ministers come and go and I would be lying through my teeth if I didn't admit that I think that has been seriously detrimental to the quality of our church and the spiritual experience I have had there. I am interested in having a minister I can get to close to, confide in, and grow under the mentorship of. College has particularly led me to the realization that that is something I wish I had (which I acknowledge is odd for someone not involved in a particularly theologically organized institution, but I feel it nonetheless). I have not had a minister I trusted or was very interested in getting close to at all in a very long time and then it occurred to me that, for as much as we feel like these are people who truly care about us, it is still a job for them and can never be divorced entirely from that. This leads me to more current events. In two weeks we will welcome a new minister. I'm very skeptical about the whole thing, largely because of some comments from my grandfather, who was on the Ministerial Search Committee. I feel bad for not giving him the benefit of the doubt, but having gone through five ministers in my life, two of whom I disliked, two of whom were acceptable but didn't last long enough to enjoy, and one who could have been a second father, I just don't know that I can ever get that back again. I thought seeing him would make me feel better about everything, but having done it, I think it just makes me feel worse. 

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