Normally, on Fridays, I post recipes for, you know, food. This Friday wasn’t meant to be an exception. I worked on a homemade apple cider recipe yesterday and this morning, but the thing is, I just didn’t love it. I wasn’t wowed by it as I had hoped to be, and there was something off in the flavor profile that I wasn’t able to fix (not yet, at least). And I don’t want to share a recipe with you unless I really think it is worth sharing. But luckily, I’ve been working on some other writing, and it just so happens that it ends up being a sort of recipe itself. I’ll probably never be done editing this, and there will be dozens of versions. But for now, I’m just going to share it. Because vulnerability is important, or something.
For some background, I am not a person who grew up in a church. However, I have always been a spiritual person, starting at a very young age when I bewildered and amused my parents by “making up hymns.” I always enjoyed learning about our friends’ religious traditions and beliefs. I took several years of Jewish studies classes in college, and in my senior year I began correspondences with two other young women I had met online years earlier (incidentally, I have now met both of these wonderful people in person, as they attended my wedding). Both Christian, these two women are both kind, intelligent, and compassionate. One of them, Courtney, grew up in a Catholic family and is now a Catholic youth minister. The other one, Katherine, grew up UCC and is now a (very talented) painter. Katherine and Courtney both shared deeply about themselves, their churches, and their beliefs with me. Courtney, having had theological training, also patiently, honestly, and thoroughly answered any and all questions I had (and there were many, as I am a liberal, feminist, queer person who never imagined feeling safe or comfortable at a church of all places). I credit both of them with supporting me without judgement during a very important time in my faith journey. The fall after I graduated college, I discovered a wonderful church in my hometown. I poured out my life story into an email to the pastor of that church, and he met with me and, like Courtney and Katherine, was nothing but compassionate, welcoming, and kind. During that year, I attended church regularly and read books recommended by my pastor. With the encouragement of both pastors at that church, I decided to be baptized on Easter Sunday, 2013. It is a very happy memory for me, and I felt deep peace and joy with my decision.
When I moved to Indiana, I was very nervous about no longer having the support of my hometown church, so I did research in advance (typical me). I actually found the church I now attend six months before moving, but made myself wait a few months before contacting one of the pastors. (Still a bit early. Oh well.) And I am so glad I found this congregation. Since I moved here a bit over two years ago, David and I have attended our church and we love it to bits. Recently, I have been engaging in deep conversations with my pastor here in Indiana as well as other members of the church. I have been overwhelmed by love and support. So this is a bit of a love poem for my church.
A Recipe For Church
a generous helping of space.
space that allows for the unfolding of wings
space that opens itself to words too large to contain.
pinches of patience as you listen. patience as you hear. patience as you wait.
one strong net : for when we encourage you to leap, we also will catch you, over and over, as you fall.
regular meals. dinners. post-worship Oreos and punch.
a sprinkle of eye contact. during the sermon. when you know things have been tough. the “are you okay?”
we drive each other home, right through silence.
a weekly-or-more hug at the door, maybe with no time for words, but communicating all the same.
when turning the dial, making the choice for community, even when that is the harder choice.
the laughter, the laughter, the laughter.
interaction, despite awkwardness, despite discomfort.
the knowledge that we need this : that I need this.
oh. so this is church.