Friday, December 10, 2010

changing churches

Six months ago, we left our church and helped to start another church. It's not something I could tell you about at the time, but it's made life pretty tough for me this year. It's good to be able to finally fill you in! Here's something I wrote about the transition.

A church is a family is a family is a family.

I realised the implications of this (I'm a slow learner) when I read Simon Flinder's article "When it’s time to go" in The Briefing. He says leaving a church should be hard: it's like leaving a family. It's not something to be done lightly or easily.

Sometimes, leaving a church is unavoidable. That's where we've found ourselves this year: between churches (for reasons I won't go into here - but, let it be said, not because our old church was a bad one), and now starting (or re-starting) a new church family. We began with a small group of people we know well, but we left many familiar faces behind. Some I'll see in my Bible study until the end of the year; others I may not see again for a very long time.

So what did I feel? Shock. Heart-ache. Grief that still pulls at me. Fear. Doubt. Anxiety about what the future holds. Uncertainty. Homelessness. A deep longing for familiarity and stability.

One of the hardest things was being between churches. It felt exciting at first - such a relief not to have to lead Sunday School or feel responsible for people! - but quickly lost its novelty. After 4 weeks of going to other people's churches, I woke up one Sunday morning and knew I couldn't do it anymore. I sat up the very back of my friend's church and cried (very embarrassing!), longing for a church family I could call my own, a place to love and serve and belong.

A few months ago, our new Bible talk began (we weren't yet calling it a church) as twenty people met in our living room. There were no frills - no songs, no welcome team, no stained glass - just a bunch of God’s people sitting on the chairs and floor of our home. Our home – what a privilege! In all the chaos of cleaning, cooking, setting up chairs and clearing away the mess, there was great joy. The joy of being back with our church family. The joy of hearing our own pastor bring God's word to us. The joy of homecoming.

Our minister put it perfectly: no matter how small and simple the gathering, when God's people gather around God's word, something amazing happens.

Since then, there have been ups and downs. We now have a name and a place to meet. We're on the way to getting a logo and a leadership team. We're growing in numbers, and there's a real buzz about the place as people become Christians and are established in their faith. It's taken me a while (did I mention I don't cope well with change?) but I'm starting to feel at home, as if, yes, this is my family.

I know the excitement will fade. The day will come when I'll feel like grumbling about the work to be done, when the glow of enthusiasm gives way to tired familiarity, when it seems we can't go on. On that day, I hope I won't forget to look around me and thank God for the immense privilege of being part of this part of God's family on earth.

image is from stock.xchng


Sarah said...

I hear you! I'm about to go through the changing churches process for the second time in less than 3 years - both due to moving. This time we're moving to another town 6 hours away.

I feel some grief, but mostly excitement, and I was really excited to read about your church plant.

Michelle said...

I hope the excitement doesn't fade. I hope you find pure joy always in serving God the way you feel called to.

Narelle Nettelbeck said...

We have been homeless all year but 3 months ago found a church to call home and it is wonderful :)
I have joined the women's ministry team and it feels amazing to be a part of something again.
Thanks for sharing what I know many of us have been through. I've not blogged about our church transitions either.