Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Have a Church Home (Gimme that old time religion)

Occasionally I have documented my frequent crises in faith here on my blog. As someone who views the world with a critical eye, those glaring contradictions in religious teaching and religious practice seem to stand out even the more and have caused me to shy away from organized religion. But as one raised in the church, as a scion of a family of ministers, the guilt of being out of church, of being outside the circle of fellowship always weighs heavily on my mind.

Yet, I’ve come to terms with this. After going from church to church and being thoroughly dismayed at what I’ve found, after watching the church seemingly change its mission and focus away from the more pressing needs of the community and toward more secular and political ends, after watching Christians seemingly become more critical and condemning of supposed sinners and not the sin, all the while ignoring their own propensity toward hypocrisy, I have chosen to follow Christ and not men; I have chosen to worship God in deed and not rhetoric while all the while praying and reading my Bible and seeking the Truth.

However, I always get tongue tied when faced with that one question: “Just where is your church home?”. That old feeling of guilt returns when I am forced to answer that I don’t have a church home. They become impatient and incredulous and, more often than not, insulted when I attempt to explain why.

But then on last evening during a moment of prayerful contemplation, I had a sudden revelation. My mind traveled back over a span of time to a specific moment in my life. And I realized that I do have a church home and have had one for quite some time.

In 1972, I joined and was baptized into the Cane Creek Road Missionary Baptist Church in the small, rural enclave of Bemis, Tennessee, right outside Jackson, Tennessee. That was the same year that a visiting church caused a scandal when, in the middle of a hymn, they jazzed it out a bit and began to sway in time with the music.

That year Cane Creek Road Missionary Baptist Church was an old turn of the century clapboard building that sat at the end of a long, winding, dusty, unpaved rural road. I don’t remember how the building was heated during the winter, but I do remember that during the summer, the deacons opened the windows in a vain attempt to catch a breeze from the outside while a row of rotating fans hanging from the ceiling did all they could.

But it seemed to never be enough because everyone, all the sisters in the church anyway, always seemed to be fanning themselves with those paddle like fans with advertisements for Stephenson-Shaw Funeral Home one side and a big picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. or John Kennedy on the other. And from my family’s place in the pews, out of the raised window I could see the cemetery adjacent to the church where generations and generations of my family were buried, where my grandfather and grandmother are now buried, where I have instructed my wife to spread my ashes in the event of my demise.

Cane Creek Missionary Baptist Church is the church my grandparents were married in. It is also the church in which my mother and her siblings were raised and baptized in and married in. And it is the church in which my first and most basic concepts of religion and Christianity were formed.

It is where I learned that love and not hate was the most important Christian message, that Christ has no respect of person, of position. It is where I learned the concept of community. It is where I learned to recognize and acknowledge and acknowledge the humanity in every human being.

The service was not aired on the radio or televised; perhaps no one even knew of the church’s existence outside those in the immediate community. But for that handful of people the church did reach, the experience was real. On Sunday morning and throughout the week, the church served God by serving the community from the highest member down to the very lowest member.

Its purpose, its mission, was one of uplift. It was there to provide solace and a place of respite to those trying to make the most out of an already precarious and complicated existence. And if I am not mistaken, despite my time away, despite the distance separating me from the brick and mortar edifice, I am still a member of that church; I have never abdicated my membership.

So, it took me a while to remember, to recall, but I do have a church home.

11 comments:

Cheri Paris Edwards said...

I "quit" church going for good when one day I realized I just didn't belong. I've no desire these days to attempt to twist my square peg identity into any round hole. Additionally, as a community member, I felt almost ashamed at being connected with the loud religiosity exhibited by most "church folks" when juxtaposed with their lack of action in social issues. I remember asking a choir member to consider becoming a mentor. He looked at me as though I'd asked him to commit some crime. Another moved so she wouldn't have to sit by me after I asked her to consider mentoring. In my head, even if they didn't want to do it, should they not consider it complimentary that I asked?

I also felt that as a writer who incorporates some spiritual aspects in my work, ultimately being a church member would influence my freedom of thought. After all, churches do like to exert a certain amount of "control" over members. Finally, I love soul music, like high heel pumps, jeans that fit, and all kind stuff that's not on the list for good Christian women. So, I'll take my chances and follow Jesus on my own. Believe that I am the church and where ever I go I can carry His light through how I do what I do. I see light everywhere too. I see light in YOU, Brother Max-- See, YOU are the church home, too...

Max Reddick said...

Christians have become very self-serving these days. It is almost as if the label Christian accords some type of superiority and permission to judge others while ignoring your own fault.

And like you, I am a square peg, and I don't always fit into that round hole; however, I do not believe this is an entirely bad thing. However, once some people have formulated their own notions of right and wrong, fair and unfair, there seems to be no convincing them otherwise or getting them to consider other points of view.

Lovebabz said...

I've always had a deep and abiding love affair with God. Sometimes that love affair caused em to leave churches. I was raised pentecostal (Fire & Brimstone for real) I went to a Prehysbetarian College (HBCU) and was born again on campus becasue the brother leading that group was FINE! Then I just drifted for more years than I can say. It wasn't until I adopted my 1 st child (I have adopted 4)that the notion of a church home became a longing...a yearning. In a very mystical way I found a church home and have been there for the last 9 years. I am happy, my heart is happy and my soul exhales. God is indeed pleased with my choice.

I was purposeful in choosing...had to be liberal, open and affirming, diverse (racially, economically culturally) proactive on civil rights, and concerned about all justice issues. It is a wonderful place. My children are thriving and getting a sense of GOD and what it means to be a servant leader. (UCC)(United Church Of Christ...Church of the Redeemer)http://stillsepaking.com

Keep the faith.
(oh so sorry for such a long dissertation on my faith journey)

Max Reddick said...

@lovebabz

The church you describe is exactly the church I have been looking for. I do not like the mega-churches. The congregation is too large and impersonal. Have been searching for a small church that can meet my family's spiritual needs; however, many of the smaller churches are so locked into their ways that they too fall short. For instance, the service has become predictable and the sermon is filled with trite cliches.

But I am actively searching for a church for my children's sake. I think they need God in their lives. I think they need somewhere to place their faith and energies.

And don't ever worry about writing too much. I am just happy you decided to join the conversation.

River Glorious said...

Just peeking in. Thank you kindly for the welcome. I am a born again Christian, and I go to church in another town, about almost an hour's drive. The reason is because they teach Christ. The teachings are biblical, and the pastor challenges us stating that we should not take him at his word, but should verify if indeed, what he is saying is according to the Word of God.

I have served the Master since 1982, with ups and downs (my fault!- HE never changes) and I am heart glad that you want to bring up your children in the Way of the Lord. I firmly believe that an earthly father can teach much about the Eternal Father. Bravo for you! I won't write more because, one, this is not my blog, and two, you probably don't know Spanish. :) I hope you have a peaceful week.

Ambar in Puerto Rico

P.S. Again thank you kindly for the welcome into your world.

CoolThoughts said...

I grew-up Catholic and long abandoned the church. The blind faith, lack of community/fellowship and diversity were too much to reconcile.

Over the years I have visited Baptist, Seven Day Adventist, Buddhist, Unitarian and Anglican services, but I too have committed to no church home. This is beyond the often quoted, I am spiritual but not religious line we hear all too frequently.

Like you, I have looked for the church and church home Lovebabz speaks of to no avail. While secure in my faith and my deeds, which supersede church attendance for me, I am weary of most churches for many of the reasons you already explored.

The church's inability to meet the needs (intellectual, emotional and social) of the baby boomers will and probably already has affected generations x, imagine the impact the young ones (millennial and salient generations). At least the baby boomers and my generation had a foundation from which to grow. What do the younger generations have? Do their parents have to retard their personal growth to attend churches that do not quite match their philosophies and needs in order to give their children some of what they need? quanundrum...

Max Reddick said...

@River Glorious

I think the most important comment you could have made was "the pastor challenges us not to take his word." Perhaps one of the problems is that people take the pastor at his word without ever seeking to verify the verity of his or her teaching. This is what leads so many into folly. He we were to ever begin sitting down and seeking the face of God for ourselves we could forgo some of the foolishness.

@Cool Thoughts

"The church's inability to meet the needs (intellectual, emotional and social) of the baby boomers..." You articulated this far better than I ever could. That is what is missing in many of the churches.

md20737 said...

Max as you know I am a young black unmarried mother in no rush to say I do until the time is right. But in church that is looked down upon baby and not married two "sins".

My main issue with church is the level of sins!! If we are going to deal in sin all sin should be equal. Beating your partner, lying, cheating,adultery, murder, etc all of those are held on different levels of wrong. The most distressing part of this whole organized religion is the willingness of the participants to judge one another. All the sins I listed should be left to the lord to judge not his believers. Its hard to take the religion or people serious when they are all judge, jury, and executioner. If this is the case what purpose does the lord serve if everyone else is an expert on how you should live your life.

The description I gave is how I was made to feel when visiting churches and speaking with church goers. Everyone had an opinion on how I should live. I dont know if I ever have felt love in a church setting only scrutiny.

I feel safer believing in GOD and living my life knowing there is one. I dont know if I can ever go back to a church again.

Charles J said...

Max,

I really enjoy reading your posts especially about Sunday, because they move me to want to better the church. I am baptist. I have been in church my entire life and I seen first hand and second hand by reading other people's postings on your Blog how the religion has hurt people.

I have been contemplating for a week now and I think I may write a note myself about Spiritual vs Religious and what does that really mean, especially when it pertains to Christians who do not go to church.

Also I know you are from the DC area, but I just found out about a social activist pastor named Rev. Heber Brown III in Baltimore (only a short hike up 295). He cares about issues of the community, he leads marches, sit-ins etc etc and he preaches. Though I have not been to his church on Sunday morning I know the message of love is there. I love that he mixed religion and activism together.

Here is his blog
http://faithinactiononline.com/

Max I hear frustration, hurt and a longing in you for a close-knit relationship with other Christians out there and I pray you find the church that suits your needs.

PS I can't help but say this because I get triggered especially with Christians state, Christianity has hurt people or the church has hurt people. I feel like Christians who make that comment are not taking ownership. YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN TOO, so that means YOU/WE as a group member have hurt people. YOU/WE Christians have the privilege of being the dominant group around religion, but so many of us take this victim approach. So I applaud anyone who takes the these steps:

STEP 1: acknowledge that people have misused God's word and have hurt others, but please take

STEP 2: and realize that you are apart of that group that has hurt others

and

Step 3: Be the change you want in the world stop using your religious privilege (for those who are Christians)sitting in your home on your high horse downing others who you are in the same boat with and take an ACTION. Find the church that has your same values as you do and if you can't find one, this is for you MAX go to the church where your wife and children congregate and join a board or a ministry and fight against the injustices that are taking place at that church. Jesus did it in his day and we can do it now.

Lovebabz said...

http://stillspeaking.com

In my haste I got the address wrong.

Denisha said...

Wonderful post! I felt every word and could relate to your experiences. I only felt at "home" when the church was big enough to prevent people from knowing me and to keep them out of my business. Never experienced the small church feel you describe but it sounds pretty southern and authentic.

Related Posts with Thumbnails