Sunday, July 13, 2008

One of These Sunday Mornings

This morning in bed, my husband nudged me, waking me up the same way he does almost every Sunday morning--asking "Where are we going to church?"

I am not kidding. Every Sunday morning, except the times when we are out of town, that same question is asked. Although we have been in the same Bible belt city for the last three years, we have not found a church home. It's not because we have not been looking. We have. We grew up in the church--we even met there--so we know how important having a strong spiritual life is and how integral having a church home is to that life.

The first church we went to when we arrived in Biblebelt was near our home which made me happy. I prefer close proximity so that I can be active in something other than Sunday morning service. When we walked in I knew almost immediately that I was not coming back. They had a Texas wallet-sized portrait of the pastor on the wall of the sanctuary! I can understand having a picture of the pastor somewhere in the church, but I'm gon' need for it to be in the vestibule or the fellowship hall, not in the sanctuary. This smacked of pastor-worship to me. But I was willing to give the church a chance. We sat through service, which was fairly standard for a Black baptist church, until it was offering time. Someone gave a tithing testimony from the podium, which seems to also be standard, and directed our attention to the three baskets on the offering table. He then proceeded to tell the congregation that we must stop choosing which basket we are going to contribute to and get used to giving to all three funds, one of which was the pastor love fund. See, right then, I was ready to go. Why is the congregation being told we have to give our money to the pastor love fund? There was pastor worship going on!

It didn't get much better than that. At one church we walked in on a congregant giving a testimony about her failing marriage and telling the congregation to pray for her husband. We thought he wasn't there the way she kept calling his name and talking about him. But he was. He was an associate minister at the church. She went on to tell us that she saw Sgt. Strife walk down the hall of their house and slide under their bed. Then the pastor took the mic from her and told us to stay out of people's business, after which he told us about his philandering brother, also a preacher. There was the church that had the guest speaker who got up and talked about how illegal immigrants bring all the crime to the city, take all of our jobs and drive up welfare rolls. Then there's the country church that had the sign in the vestibule which told women they could not wear pants. There was also Morning Glory Harvest of the Noon Day church that had the blind pastor (which is not objectionable, just memorable) who talked about doing things his way and he wasn't going to tolerate the mess that had been going on before he got there. That church had obviously been messy. There was another church that seemed okay, but in the middle of the pastor's service, we noticed that one of the congregants got up and threw something in the pulpit. A little while later, someone in the choir stand behind him threw something at him. Then some more people did the same. We finally realized they were throwing money at him! Just like he was a stripper! He tried to explain it, but it didn't make sense. I can't go to a strip club church.

These were the more egregious churches. There have been others that were not close enough to our home or they did not have a healthy respect for education or they bordered on prosperity preaching. We found one that we liked which had a pastor who was thoughtful and progressive; sermons that were inspired and inspiring; a close proximity to our jobs if not our homes; and excellent teaching and outreach ministries. Although hard to ignore, each Sunday we overlooked the fact that it was a Methodist church and a predominately white church. We stopped attending when the pastor returned home to South Africa. We gave the new pastors a chance, but they had a different agenda (it wasn't wrong; it just did not help us overlook the fact that this was a white church.)

I want a church home. I want to be in a community that will help me grow and that will be a part of my life through all of its triumphs and tragedies. It shouldn't be this hard, but it is. The search is very tiring. It's gotten to the point that on some Sunday mornings when he asks, I just turn over and tell him we're going back to sleep.

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