i no longer go to church

I’m a big believer in the church. I think it’s a wonderful movement of people that offers a transforming presence in the world, and that it is often a remarkable expression of God’s grace and love in the world.

I no longer find my home there.

I have tried to talk myself into it, to find my place there, but i just can’t. It’s not that i think the church is doing something wrong, it’s not that i’ve grown out of it or moved beyond it. It’s more like i’ve moved into some other parallel universe, so the church is now in another world where i don’t recognise myself or this somewhat strange faith that seems to have its hold on me.

I’m not pissed at the church. I quite love it, and am really grateful for it. I’m not angry, i haven’t been hurt, i don’t need counselling or debriefing. I just don’t find myself there. I wish i could articulate the stuff behind that better – but i hope you’ll just trust me enough to know this is not something that needs fixing.

Tonight will be the 14th time i’ve heard Pete Rollins speak over the last couple of weeks. I haven’t got bored yet, although now that the language and concepts are far more familiar i don’t have to hold onto every sentence to make sense of it. It means my mind has more freedom to wander… Last night Pete made a comment about how Ikon is both a stepping stone out of the church for some, and a stepping stone into the church for others, and i began to wonder which of those i want for the things that i do, and which of those this project might be for me.

I find it constantly bemusing (and wonderful) that the church offers me the gift of this job (David, my manager, tells me to stop being so bemused by that, to stop questioning it and just to live it. i’ve promised i’ll restrain myself from incessant second guessing this year). The intention of this project has evolved (uncertainly and falteringly at the beginning, but now with quite distinct clarity) into something that will not (deliberately) change the church, or (intentionally) bring people into it. It would be lovely if those things happen, and i will be delighted if they do, but the project’s focus is purely to curate moments where there might be space for redemption and transformation to happen.

One of the surprising things that’s come out of the last few months has been that a number of people have been asking me to help them leave the church. They want to know how to let go of it, how to move on. some want to ritualise the moment of leaving the church, especially if they were ritualised into it without their consent or real understanding of what it meant. Some want to know how to get rid of the last vestiges of their faith. These are people whose experiences of the church have been devastating and continue to be damaging. I don’t know yet how to do this well, but i think i’ll be learning.

Maybe taking this tack means that i’ll have a short life in this project, or that it will have a short life in the church. but for the moment i’ll just take David at his word and keep waiting to see what unfolds.

6 Comments

  1. Bless you Cheryl. Perhaps in the brave new world those spaces for redemption and transformation which you help to create will be recognised as ‘kingdom places’ and we can stop worrying about whether we are in or out of ‘church’.

  2. I’ve been eagerly checking your blog after hearing Pete in Perth, excitedly waiting for your insights and reflections on Pete’s contributions and hoping that your thoughts might help clear the stirring and whirring of ideas buzzing through my head.

    Thanks for your vulnerability and honesty in describing the journey you are on.

    I’ve just started to tackle Pete’s book and, after only the initial few pages, have been a little threatened and invited towards a liberation. I’m looking forward to reading, listening, talking and learning more.

  3. Cheryl

    looking forward to talking about it with you, and hearing what’s happening in your head… and to celebrating your birthday…

  4. Blair

    I too wonder how to help people leave the church that has hurt them. From a perspective of care, I also wonder what else will provide the (regular/reliable) spaces of redemption and transformaton for people who need it (as I reckon we all do) instead of the church?

    or…
    do new groups/networks form that grow to become very like infant churches?

    don’t know

  5. Tom Allen

    Great to read this – alternative worship in the UK has over the last 10-12 years made it possible for a number of people to move into ordained ministry within the Church of England and with a similar sense of the place of the inherited Church – but also with a passion for creating new places and spaces for people to experience God.

    As a mission priest I have a particular ministry with those who have been hurt by the Church or while not losing their faith just find Church hard or irrelvant at the moment which is a particulary prevalent in the 20-30 something age group who do not fit with the social miliue of many local churches. But people within the Church find this so hard to understand, or see as only having value if people subsequently “come to Church”. Of course “someone” once said Church is anywhere “where two or three gather. together in my name”

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