24 June 2009

Church of Amanda

When we relocated to Montgomery from Birmingham, Michael and I soon noticed a trend. I don't even know if trend is the right word because trends aren't always followed by every single person, but I don't have another word and I refuse to google it right now, so deal, ok?

Great.

The trend-that-everyone-was-doing- and-I-mean-everyone, you might ask?

Well, people would introduce themselves, ask our names, where we were from and then ask one. more. question.

"So... what church do you go to?"

At first it wasn't odd, it set off zero alarms and we just answered very frankly that we were literally JUST settling in to our new surroundings and we would soon start the Church Hunt.

Each person, every person, would take that opportunity to invite our family to The Greatest Church on Earth (or at least one within driving distance). "Invites" came from all denominations - Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, Presbyterian, etc. All with the same persuasive tone, eager invite and enthusiastic PR rant about their Church Home.

It took a few weeks before it went from "Oh, well I got another 4 invites today, honey...." to "Um, Amanda... does everyone ask you what church we've signed our livelihood over to yet when you are out grocery shopping?" (Michael was getting, at one point, no less than 10 DIFFERENT invites a day - he was meeting a LOT of new people opening up a new office here).

It became a joke around here, within the confides of our 4-sides brick. Not a JOKE joke, but something we found very Montgomery. Nothing said "Welcome to the Bible Belt" more than having to meet a new person and go through the "Name, Residency, Church Affiliation" interrogation routine. We know church is important, and that it has an EXTRA SPECIAL importance here, but in a large(r) city - like say, Birmingham - asking someone's church affiliation within 2.5 seconds of meeting them is just not normal (or the norm, if you will).

And soon we took the bait on several local church hooks, trying on a few different denominations and coming up a little short. We realized that we didn't really fit in here, and it would take time to "break in" to some of these very tightly knit groups of friends and that in this new, strange world, everything was Church-centric.

Here's the part where I break off and tell you that I have absolutely nothing against church - as a matter of fact, I miss having a Church Home. It's a wonderful place to meet like-minded and even different-minded people to share experiences with and worship the Lord. A place to become comfortable in and grow relationships with both your neighbor and your Savior. Church is a haven for raising children in the ways God has set forth for us.

Our problem, if you will, was that it's just so dang different here.

The children don't go to the same schools, the kids in the neighborhoods, ergo, don't play together unless they have something else in common - and in this case it is church.

That's apparently why almost 99% of Montgomerians felt it was so important for us to "pick one and pick one NOW".

When we DID pick, under a bit of pressure to do so, we kinda figured out the hard way we'd pick the wrong one for us (mucho emphasiso on the US-o part...o...). I don't really care to go into which church we picked or how it All Went Wrong. Honestly, it wasn't the church at all, but certain people in a certain group of people in that church. And What Went Wrong wasn't even church-related, but very non-church related and this is me stopping about this now because I don't want it to get all "Jon and Kate drama" on my blog about church and these people, because dude, that could go very very badly.

However, the drama surrounding that Church Break-up made us oh so hesitant about picking another one.

And when it came time to put Conner in preschool, I shopped around some more because I wanted him to go to a church preschool (just as I did). We "tried on" three more churches, and we finally picked what is known in Montgomery as Six Flags Over God, because people - it's huge. But, big has it's advantages.

I really like the place, I do, but it still doesn't feel like Home to me, and I don't think it can. It's, again, not the people and this time, not the drama.... but, it's nothing like what I grew up with and I think the only way to find that Special Something I am looking for in a church is to be comfortable. And there is ONE THING I am not in this New Place, and that is COMFORTABLE.

For me and my family, committing to a place that doesn't call to you isn't committing to the Lord in a way I find appropriate (Staci pointed that one out, as she is having the same problems in her "new place" and she's about to move to The Netherlands, so she's sure to have even MORE of a problem... nothing says uncomfortable like a church sermon in Dutch...).

And going home? Well, we all know that isn't an option right now.

And why, Amanda, have you ranted about all this for so long? Well, I'm glad I asked what you were thinking, because I'd like to present to you an idea:

The Church of Amanda

(GASP!) (Oh, calm down already) (it's not that bad, and we aren't worshipping me) (although...) (no seriously... moving on)

In the Church of Amanda (which is located in my house, because in my house, I am comfortable AND I like the people... most of the time, anyways), we believe in God as our Creator. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, died on the cross and was resurrected. He was sent here to pay the price for our sins.

In the C.O.A., we (ok, mostly me) like to mix a little Catholic in, and believe that Mary deserves some Special Title, because COME ON, she BIRTHED Jesus. So, she gets Saint rights or something similar and I didn't give them to her, but God did and the Catholic church and some other fine Godly peoples.

We, in COA, believe in lots of Saints, too... because they perform miracles through God on Earth and they deserve Special Credit. I'm just going to save my butt here and say that all the Saints in the Catholic doctrine are credible peoples, so they are good in the C.O.A. (Although, again, some of this is out of Michael's Baptist realm, so... he gets to pick the parts of aforementioned beliefs that he wants to believe, see how flexible we are here in the Church of Amanda?)

In the Church of Amanda, we worship how we want - whether that be through singing or dancing, music or no music, clothes or barely any clothes (because praying in the shower totally counts, and cleanliness is Godliness). There's also no real schedule, so pray when you need to, worship when you need to, confess when you need to... etc.

We also read from The Bible and try and teach the lessons within the Bible that are kid friendly through the Children's Bible with lots of pictures. As a family, we say the Lord's Prayer and several others when necessary, and since I am Catholic-lite, I also say Hail Mary's. But, again... this is all about comfort... so do as you wish in the Church of Amanda.

Oh, there's one issue that the Church of Amanda needs addressing - tithing. Since the Church of Amanda is temporary until we go BACK HOME, we tithe to the church that Conner attends school at a little, but mostly to OUR Church Home back in Birmingham.

The Church of Amanda is in no way a jokey-joke or making fun of churches at all, just a funny reminder that sometimes, when you just can't find your fit in a new place, maybe that place isn't for you. In life, you have to make the best of what you are given, so for now, I am doing just that.

I might even make cards. You know, for when people start introducing themselves. I just hope they don't show up expecting a riveting service......

10 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you weren't able to just take your time and find the "right" place for you. With all that pressure, who could?

    It's just sad to me because it's just not supposed to be about pressure, a forced relationship sort of thing. It's supposed to be kind of an extended family that happens because of a like-mind, an unconditional love...not a "hurry up already or you're going to start on fire" kind of thing.

    Such a bummer of a comment I'm writing, but this sort of thing just makes me sad. I'm pretty sure it makes God sad too. I mean, what did He want our churches and communities to look like? Family. Comfortable family. Not pressure and drama.

    OK, I'll stop now.

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  2. My reply via email to Heather of Tne EO:

    You are so incredibly right, and whereas I tried to make this post half-heartdly funny, this situation in itself is sad.

    We tried, really, but it just seems there's no true fit for us here after 3 years of trying.

    I pray and hope that God finds our decision to be a home-churching family to be one that serve Him because for now, we really feel like we have no other choice.

    Thank you for your comment! I promise isn't wasn't too bummer-esque. We've known for a few months now that we just weren't having any success in the Church Search. So, this is something we've already come to terms with.

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  3. This is SO! INTERESTING! I have about 4000 questions. Seriously. Maybe I should save them for email. They are VERY INVOLVED questions!

    I am a churchy gal, as you know, but my one visit to Montgomery, AL (my only visit to the South) freaked me right out. Maybe being a Catholic and not a Baptist had something to do with that. And I think asking what church someone attends .5 seconds after meeting them would get you drop kicked out of Seattle.

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  4. @Maggie - Email away! I'm an open book.

    Oh, and a mere 2 hours North of Montgomery, in Birmingham, you'd also get a swift kick in the Gina for asking someone their church preferences upon first introduction. (It's just so WEIRD!)

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  6. I feel ya, we've been here 5 years and I haven't found my 'home' church yet. Now that Kylie's here we just go to church in Arab '30 min drive' when we can b/c it's the only service she'll sit through b/c of the gaggle of family that goes there (we prob take up 20 of the 100 members.. lol..) and I DON"T DO NURSERY especially when I don't REALLY know these people. No offence, sure your great Godly people, but this is my CHILD! (sorry I get a lot of mouth for that)And while we're both Baptist Jeremy is Missionary Baptist and I'm Southern Baptist- big difference believe it or not. So I crave big church with millions of people/activities and he wants smaller church hymnal kinda thing. anyway- done with my book- kinda
    G/L! does it count if
    I tithe to C.O.A.? lol

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  7. Chasity :)24 June, 2009

    Wow, a lot of people seem to be in this same spot. I've been at my church since 2005 and I'm about ready to start my own church at the house services too. It's gotten so everything is so forced almost. Like if you go to church and do nothing you at least go to church, but if you don't attend a church and have an actual reationship with God then thats NOT good enough. It's a dfficult situation whether shopping for the right fit or outgrowning your church you currently attend. {sigh} I think this blog was timed perfectly. Now we all know were not the only ones. Kudos Manda!!

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  8. I hate church hunting. I grew up (for 20 years) in a small, non-denominational church and watched it go through a large and a small split. But I loved it there. I got married there. I got baptized there. I wish we could still be there for the Sunday sermons. But it was so small that it had nothing for people our age. There were NO other couples without kids when we were there (without kids) and only 1 or 2 others with young kids.

    We shopped around. Attended a church for 9 months until we realized we really weren't comfortable with the flashy/loud/ completely modern atmosphere.

    We found a very traditional church that works for now. We love our small group sunday school class. Mostly young couples with and without young kids. Similar places in life, etc. That part works for us so well. The big church part? Not so much. But we're really trying.

    Until recently, we gave our tithe to missionaries we wanted to support instead of to a church directly. None of the churches we had casually attended really needed it, we felt weird giving it to the church we left under bad circumstances and we really wanted it to go to the work of the Lord. We're giving it to the place we're attending now since we've become more entrenched. I still miss the smallness of my childhood church. Everyone knew everyone. We had a personal relationship w/ the pastor. I don't think our current pastor could name us if we met at Target and we've been there more than 18 months.

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  9. Maybe I'm just super-sensitive to that question, since I'm NOT a church-goer, but I feel like I get this question ALL. THE. TIME. It might not be immediately upon meeting someone, but it certainly happens fairly regularly with people I would consider acquaintances at best. So I'm not surprised by it at all. It just doesn't seem to be a "personal question" around here, either.

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  10. Very interesting!

    I grew up in a strict I mean STRICT Christian home and b/c of that only now am I starting to take more of an interest in religion at all. People ask what were are I say we are confused.

    The COA sounds perfect for us though so we will join and start one on Long Island. So COA-LI.

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