Monday, May 12, 2008

Leaving church

I read this post on leaving church at Pen and Parchment and I thought that I would write a quick response.

I did leave church.

I had attended a variety of fundamentalist assemblies and churches throughout my life, ending up at an evangelical Anglican church. It has increasingly come under the influence of the Sydney Diocese in Australia and Bishop Barnett was frequently invited to teach during the summer.

I finally left that church and did not attend any church for a full year. I did meet for Bible study in a variety of ways, but I did not attend a church per se. I wanted to be protected from the teachings of "church." My experience was that church had a combative atmosphere, and consisted of narrowing the perspective on a variety of issues, including women.

However, in the time that I did not go to church, I was unable to replace my previous negative experience with something better. Recently I have started to attend a local church which I appreciate very much.

Four passages of scripture are read every Sunday, communion is celebrated every Sunday, the sermon was surprisingly evangelical, and the priest is also a skilled cantor. That rather took me by surprise. I hadn't heard a service conducted like that before.

There is a strong focus on serving the local community, graduating new candidates for the priesthood and growing as a community. I enjoy the after church coffee, too. Actually they serve particularly good coffee.

There is also no powerpoint, no modern choruses, no handwaving, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The sanctuary is quiet throughout the service, which seems to be a combination of the nature of the service and the acoustics. Hmm.

I even took communion without making sure that I did not have to receive communion from a male. I always used to avoid the men during communion in the other church because I would not receive communion from a person who treated me as one of that special class of humans that are not of his class of human, if you know what I mean. In that church, although women were not allowed to preach they could pass out communion. I was always grateful for small mercies.

This isn't very focused but I want to record the feelings that I had in church this morning. I felt safe for a change. I am thankful for this community and grateful to be somewhere else and not where I was. These are just thoughts on my particular situation. Just anecdotes. I am sure other people have their reasons for leaving church. And going back.


David Ker said...

I'm glad you found a place where you feel safe. A church should be a sanctuary.

Anonymous said...

"I felt safe for a change."
What a nice post, what a nice concept and what a nice feeling I feel as I hear you describe the church you are attending.

Of course, the sadness in it is that feeling safe and "at home" like that in church is unique enough to really stand out...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts here. The story of the church you are attending now brought a peaceful smile to my heart this morning. Thank you.

And I'm really glad for you, too.

Nathan Stitt said...

Thank you for sharing; this post has made my day.

Bill Heroman said...

Praise the Lord, Suzanne. I was raised Episcopalian but got "saved" into the larger non-denominational para-churchey evangelical world. So the first time I left church I actually went back and felt real comfort in being able to recite the liturgy with others.

On a sidenote, I appreciate the observation about the acoustics encouraging silence. Hm, indeed. ;) But hey, so enjoy the silence.

And before I sign off, on a completely unrelated note, I just saw someone published a new journal article on the apostle Junia recently. In case you're interested or hadn't seen it.

I think she also probably lived in Ephesus. Alexander & Co. probably told rumors about her too. So non-traditional! Tsk, tsk. ;)

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Of course, I want to read the Junia article. Do you mean the CBMW article that is coming online in August or is there another one? Pray tell!

Bill Heroman said...

You're losing me with the acronyms, Syzanne. Untrained independent here!

I saw it on somebody's blog. But I've been branching more into the "biblio-/scholastic" part of the blogosphere very recently, so I don't remember whose.

That's probably it.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Mike Burer has recently written a response to Epp's book on Junia. The Article is in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This is published by the CBMW, Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is an organization committed to teaching that men were designed to be leaders and women to be submissive assistants. This is called biblical complementarity.

Burer promised last year that he would respond to Belleville's work on Junia, but I am not surprised that he has chosen to respond to Epp instead. The gist is that instead of trying to say that Junia is only well-known to the apostles, he will now tack back and claim that Junia could well be a male name Junias. Not that Junias ever existed as a name at all ever, but who knows. So if you are referring to Burer's article, I will look at it in August. If you are referring to another article, I have not heard of it.

Iyov said...

I hope you will make a blog post about this article.