Sunday, November 4, 2007


My relationship with church has always been a source of conflict for me. When I was 16 or so, I started reading Zen Buddhism, Jack Kerouac, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The Mennonite Church in which I was raised suddenly seemed confining. I didn't see how one religion had all the answers, condemning multitudes of devout believers to eternal damnation. (I must interject here and say that Salem-Zion was a wonderful church to grow up in. These are the thoughts of a rebelous 16 year old) After I left home, I stopped going to church. When I moved to the Des Moines Catholic Worker House in 1998, I was introduced to the radical thinking of Catholics' Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, while putting these notions in to practice with priests Frank Cordaro and other Christians. Mass was held at the house every Friday evening and you never knew who would be there. Would it be the quiet mass of friends, or the exciting mass of neighborhood hooligans needing shelter? While I didn't participate in communion, I enjoyed the liturgical call and response and the way the Catholics knew when to touch their heads, lips, and hearts and when to answer "and also with you."

After I left the Worker, I continued to evade the church while recognizing God's presence in my life. I am very comfortable in my faith and my belief system, but something has changed. I have a little girl who needs for me to provide a religious foundation for her to define and question.

So now here I sit, without a church. About a year ago Roy and I attended service at the local Mennonite Church and I was so disappointed. The congregation, about 40 people, met in a school gymnasium, and there were no hymnals on the chairs. No choir warming up in the fellowship hall. No organ or piano, only guitars and drums. This is fine for some people and I'm glad it fills a spiritual need. But if I was going to commit my Sunday mornings to church, I needed my traditions.

I have lately been inspired by my blogging community posting their children's artwork and definitions of God, so I went to the website of one of Lexington's oldest churches, Christ Church Cathedral. This Episcopal Church was founded in 1796 and has a plaque over the pew where Henry Clay sat. They have a soup kitchen and a commitment to peace and justice that I need as part of my spiritual life.

This morning, we packed up the family, and went. My boss attends this church and we happened to cross paths about a block from the entrance. She was a gracious host, taking us to the nursery and introducing us to prodigious members of the Lexington community. I'm not used to "box seats" with little doors, or the kneeling benches at my feet, but it was familial and warm. The program gave me a guide as to when to "amen" and "and also with you" and "it is right to give him thanks and praise." The scripture was the Beatitudes, the sermon on how we are all saints, even though we are flawed. There was a baptism which I, in my anabaptist ways, found fascinating, and a men and boys choir that was simply beautiful. Sure, Roy and I scrambled from hymnal to hymnal and it was about half way through the service before we got our legs under us, but it felt right.

As the service ended, we were welcomed by those around us and the lady sitting behind informed us that there are Spauldings Donuts Sunday mornings... if you arrive early enough. I introduced myself to Audrey, the Reverend Canon with whom I had been corresponding. She was a beautiful presence and made it known that she was raised Baptist. This made me feel much less silly about asking some of my questions. She passed us on to a couple who had been at the church about a year. They said that they loved this church because it provided for them both spiritually and intellectually. They attend a Sunday School class that is currently discussing the Iran/Iraq war debaucle and Audrey is very involved with the crisis in Darfur. The walls to the garden entrance are decorated with local artwork, as the Church participates in the LexArts, Gallery Hop.

This afternoon, I feel so good about our morning at church. I confess that I love my pajama clad, coffee drinking Sunday mornings, but this provided me so much more. Do I have to go every week? Nah. Will I? Surely not. But I have found something, I think, that my family needs. Community.


Jen said...

Good news! Aaron and I struggle with different needs regarding church, but generally, I like church, and it feels good to take my kids. Good luck on this path!

Jen CD

Leigh said...


kclblogs said...

I'm glad you had this warm experience. There's nothing quite as powerful as ritual, and church is very ritualistic. We struggle with it here. I think what we've figured out is that we're more tied to the Mennonite cultural practices than we are the religious aspect (even though I know they're tightly entwined).

There's also this longing to give my kids the familiarity of the rituals that I had as a kid, because they're a significant part of me. But, maybe the most important part is the ritual itself, and not necessarily that they are the same as mine. Nonetheless, this is what keeps us going to church (that and Mali LOVES it).

I hope you are filled up in this new community.

Anonymous said...

It's good to stop now and then, reevaluate and let go of some baggage so that we can journey on. Is there anyone that doesn't carry some spiritual baggage? John and I were a part of an Anglican/Episcopal congregation in Sarajevo and learned to love the liturgy. I guess each path has it's own beauty.