The other day a fellow left this question in the private message area of the UC Facebook page:
I am recently in the process of leaving an evangelical church. Any pointers? Any resources regarding being a Christian without a church would be great.
Christy Caine, UC’s director of social media, wrote him an answer. First she recommended a few books for him to read (Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor; Too Soon Old Too Late Smart, by Gordon Livingston; Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott; and The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg).
Then she wrote him this:
Others in similar situations have found “Christian community” outside of church by practicing service as worship, by getting involved with community programs that serve the poor or the needy in some way. This might be building houses with Habitat for Humanity, or serving meals and talking with men at the homeless shelter, or working in another area of interest in your community where you can “do church” with others who have a similar interest and a serving spirit.
This creates opportunity for connection—which is really a way of allowing the spirit to move us.
One thing I learned along the way after leaving my conservative denomination was a new way of worship and prayer. I understood it no longer as a “special thing” I needed to set aside a specific time to do, in a certain prescribed way. Instead, I found that in my everyday searching for God, the world opened up: Walking with a clear mind allowed for an ongoing conversation with God … “But what does this mean?” “If scripture says this, but I know this to be true, what do I do?” Moments of quiet became conduits of prayer, gardening an opportunity for connection.
And I no longer saw people as sinners in need of fixing, but rather reflections of God shining back at me. What can I learn from them? That homeless man is Jesus; how can I show him compassion? That single mother with four young children waiting for the bus—that’s Jesus; what can I do to honor the reflection of Jesus I see in her. The elderly woman walking with a walker in the store and slowing down the line at the check-out… that’s Jesus too. What does she need?
And, like the poet Rumi, I found that what I was searching for was also searching for me.
What used to be “going to church” three times a week and praying a prescribed list of things before I fell asleep at night, and reading Bible passages because I thought I was supposed to, became a way of living every moment as an opportunity for connection with God in every aspect of the world around me.
I am still involved in church, but it is no longer the only place I find God—nor where God, most powerfully, has found me.
Many blessings on your journey,
For this blog Ms. Caine has written Prayer for the New Year and The State Marriage Defense Act. Really, Ted and Mike? She blogs at Leap of Fate.