Monday, April 01, 2013

It's Not That I Don't Want To

It's not that I'm not a Believer, I am.  I just don't believe in church any more. I haven't attended church in years.  I'm a Methodist - always have been, baptized as an infant, and again later when we moved to Harrison and joined the local First Methodist  My children are both Methodists. I have visited my daughter and son in law's churches wherever they have lived (he was in the Air Force and they moved every couple of years until his retirement a year ago.) I have attended Methodist churches in several different states, thanks to them, and I have enjoyed every one.  The people and the ministers were all very friendly and I can say in all sincerity that I felt very welcome each time.

It's just the church in my town in which I just don't feel comfortable.  I have tried for decades, attending church for long stretches at a time, and I simply have never felt welcome in the Methodist Church here. When my children were small, I felt I needed to take them to church and Sunday School.  They never complained, and when she was a teenager, my daughter actually joined and enjoyed the choir. You'd think the other two of us would feel comfortable, but we weren't.  My daughter was married in that church.

There was a long time where we attended every Sunday, rain or shine, and one lady came up to me every Sunday, without fail, and asked if I was a visitor. This happened for a couple of months, until I told her, as always that, no, I had been a member since the 1960s. She never even blinked, so finally, the next Sunday I added, "You have asked me that for eight Sundays straight. Please look closely at me and try to find something about me that will trigger a memory, so you won't have to ask me that again.  (I had no doubt she would remember me as "that rude woman who visited last week, and here she is again.")

I'm not saying there are no friendly people in the church.  Some I have known for years, and they always greet us and chat with us for a moment or two before the service starts. The rest of the members smile and smile and smile - smiles that never reach their eyes.

We tend to have a new minister every two or three years.  They never seem to leave of their own accord. The congregation invariably becomes incensed about something he says or does and they start insisting that he be relieved of his post and sent elsewhere.  One of our better ministers infused his message with humor. He said he thought he might hold  Sunday services in the middle of the lake in summer since that seemed  to be where he could find his congregation.  (The grumbling started.)  Then, on another occasion, also in summer, he said he was going to the lake for a picnic right after church, so he wore his shorts under his robes, and showed them to us, as well as his sandals. (There was an audible gasp.)  He was gone within a month, but far from being punished, he was promoted.  Our loss.

So, I have come to the conclusion that the Methodist Church itself is not to blame.  Our members are, most of them, at least. They are cold and basically unfriendly.  And they wonder why their congregation is not growing.

And, I find that rather sad.

Stay tuned.    



Olga said...

That is sad--to feel unwelcome in church--especially if you happen to be the minister.

Linda@VS said...

I like the concept of church much better than the actual experiences I've had there and finally stopped going. I think about it sometimes, but I'm seeing so many people on Facebook who spout a Bible verse in one post and spew a hate-filled, right-wing political message in the next that I'm beginning to think of church as nothing more than a place that accepts donations and spreads propaganda. I realize that that makes me as judgmental as I think they are, and I know it isn't right to paint everybody with that broad brush. I'm working on that, but in the meantime I'll keep on finding God in the other places He goes. Frankly, He's probably too busy counting hypocrites on Sunday mornings to notice whether I'm there or not.

Margie's Musings said...

I attend every Sunday and my week is not complete without my church. My congregation is just the opposite. They overwhelm visitors with attention and invitations. Those of us who want to eat lunch every Sunday together. The fellowship is rich.

Maybe it's because we are a small congregation but I don't believe so because I have found the same friendliness in every one of our churches.

I am so sorry your experience has not been good.

Liz Hinds said...

That's sad. In the church I go to on Sundays (sometimes) I think I am the oddbod, the one who tends to stand on the side. But that's my choice I suppose as I don't make an effort.

I'm always scared to go and greet people i don't know just in case that exact thing happens: is this your first time? no, we've been coming for 6 months.
Hey ho.

Sister--Three said...

Most of the Churches I have attended I like for a while and then grow tired of them. I like the old timey songs and now mostly folks like the praise hymns. Most churches have no song books an everything is electronic. Our church is in the dark ages as far as modern stuff goes. It suits me just fine. When a visitor comes were smoother them and scare most of them away!

I will say honestly, Betty, most churches are mostly about getting money in the collection plate.

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