On Church, and Why I've been Going Back

If you've been around TNR for a while, you know I am pretty much not the biggest fan of organized religion.

I grew up in the church. As a daughter of a Baptist minister, I was in church literally every time the doors were open to the public, and sometimes more often. My brother and I would get paid a few dollars on the weekends to fold bulletins and clean pews, and I know what it's like to army crawl from the back of a sanctuary to the front under said pews, to play in an empty baptismal and to make copies of my butt on the church Xerox machine.

My complete break with religion came after my divorce (though I had steadily been pulling away for a few years before). I just couldn't reconcile the fact that the people who sat in church every week learning about love would so completely shut me out when I needed love most. 

(Though, in hindsight, I'm sure judgment went both ways. They judged me for my decision, and I judged some of them often long before they had a chance to react.)

Either way, I haven't dragged myself out of bed on a Sunday morning for anything other than brunch in nearly ten years. 

In fact, though I respect a person's right to embrace faith and find comfort in a higher power, I once told my brother--who is a church-going, born-again, "I don't have a religion, I have a relationship" type--that the feeling he'd get walking into a whorehouse is the same feeling I get walking into church.

I mean, assuming that he'd feel totally uncomfortable and awful and wrong walking into a whorehouse. If he'd be all like "YAY!" I'm using a terrible analogy. Sorry.

The last couple of years, however, I found myself missing pieces and parts of church. I missed the weekly "check-in" with myself. I missed seeing familiar faces and watching people grow and change over the years. I missed, really, the community aspect of a church body. I mean, I have friends, but there's something about sitting comfortably with a bunch of people you wouldn't normally hang out with on a Sunday for one purpose.

Then I was talking to a friend about this same issue. She mentioned that she wasn't raised very religiously (she was literally given the choice between marching band or church. She chose marching band), but after a bad break-up a few years ago, found herself somewhat regularly attending one of those mega-churches in town. She said that church for her then satisfied the same things I felt like I was missing: a chance to "check-in" away from the chaos of her life, and to sit with a bunch of people who were doing the same thing.

And, boom...I realized that this summer I had been recreating a church experience of my own on Sunday mornings. 

Every Sunday morning, I attend a 9:30 yoga class. My instructor is awesome. She encourages us to push ourselves, but to always take our practice at our own pace. She helps adjust and correct where needed, and always knows when a student is comparing his or herself to someone else...and puts the smackdown on that shit.

Each week, I see familiar faces, and we smile at each other and then begin to breathe and "check-in" with ourselves. We are a small group of people, meeting for the same purpose, heading toward a mutual goal.

After class, I head to one of my favorite breakfast spots alone. I get coffee and a meal, and I sit for an hour or two while I read and relax and my city swirls around me. I am sweaty and gross and happy. It is good to leave the chaos and brokenness of my heart and mind behind for a few hours and re-calibrate.

This routine is my church. To me, it is a spiritual and fulfilling process. I never thought I'd go back, but here I am anyway. 

It's good.

church photo | prayer photo