For most of my life when I thought about going home it was to Maine, to my family and friends and my church. There was a point when I was about 25 years old that I realized that my church wasn’t my home any longer. It just didn’t fit the same way as it used to. This year my wife and I returned to Maine for the Christmas holiday. As is my family’s tradition we went to the Christmas Eve service at the church I grew up attending. It was so clear to me that not only did it not fit, but it was downright uncomfortable.
It seems my faith development has caused me to become uncomfortable with the black & white form of Christianity that my former church believes in. I’ve spent so much time reading and being with people that see so much nuance in Christianity that it makes someplace with only absolutes feel outdated if not completely wrong. I believe in some absolutes – those expressed in the Nicene Creed – but after that I see so much nuance. So many things are not clearly spelled out in the Scriptures, we have an idea but nothing concrete. One of my former professors calls it negative boundaries – we know it’s not this and not that but something in between. This is one of the most beautiful things about Christianity if you ask me. It allows for so much variance within what can be called orthodox. When you get used to being able to feel the flex of the faith (the trampoline if you’re a Rod Bell fan as I am), it feels really constricting to be in a place that acts as if they have all the absolute answers.
There are other things that are more stylistic about my former church (e.g. I don’t need to have a full on broadway show with lights and fog to have a meaningful worship experience, emotionally based worship seems to neglect tradition, reason and sometimes even scripture), but ultimately it’s the constricting feel of the belief system that has caused me to realize that my home has moved.
That all being said, this year was the first time that I actually thought that going home was coming back to Tacoma. I don’t fit exactly in my new church home, but it allows me to be different and to explore my faith – to flex. Interestingly, the move that I’ve made is not uncommon. People that grow up in conservative/charismatic churches tend to end up in more moderate traditional/mainline churches.
I’m thankful for my new home and I’m thankful that my former church is there for the people that need them, but mostly I’m glad to be home.