I feel like I can talk to my school friends about anything and it’s awesome. However, there are two exceptions. The first is my mom’s death, because people who have never known someone who died get freaked out about the whole idea of like, dying and stuff. Plus, I think that the fact that I’m so cavalier about the whole thing even though it was only two years ago freaks people out even more.
The other thing that my friends get weird about is when I talk about church. I always forget that as a regular church-goer I’m a minority in my generation. For me, it’s always been a part of my life, so it rarely occurs to me that there are people who have never even walked into a church. I think a lot of people are scared of the whole idea.
I blame the religious crazies for all the church stigma. I don’t just mean terrorists and rapey priests either. I mean those regular people who feel the need to go up to random strangers and be all like, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?” Everyone knows those people. That form of relies craziness bugs me so much because it doesn’t attract people to the church, it scares them away from it. I’m all in favour of evangelism, but you don’t get people to accept God into their lives by being all confrontational.
I want people to know that church isn’t like that. Or at the very least, my church isn’t. It’s not about being judged or knowing all the answers or memorizing the bible. A church congregation is supposed to be like a family; you’re supposed to make friends and build relationships and share your faith and ask questions and struggle together and triumph together.
Anytime it comes up, I love to tell people about my church. It’s a small place with maybe 300 members, which is cool because everyone knows each other. The service is an hour long, but we are usually there for two or three every Sunday because before and after we talk with everyone about their lives and our lives and whatever else comes up. Everyone genuinely cares about each other, no matter their age or background or income or culture or even language. There’s this one Japanese woman who speaks barely any English, but she’s been in the choir for years now and apparently she’s really enjoying it and everyone in the choir loves her.
I have all kinds of different friends at church. There’s a lovely lady in her fifties who is a bit of a shopoholic and is always giving me her hand-me-downs because we have the same shoe size. There’s a 13-year-old girl who I go out for lunch with sometimes and assure her that life gets better after junior high. Then there’s a hilarious couple in their twenties who sit in the pew in front of me, and a whole parade of old ladies who loved my mother and want to hear all about my life, and the assistant pastor who is always down for deep philosophical chats. On of my favourite people in the world is my friend’s grandmother, who always mutters sarcastic comments and plays with my hair in the pew behind me.
I know I don’t mention it a lot, but my relationship with God is really important to me and I know that He has a plan for me. He’s always been there for me, especially through the tough stuff like my mom’s death. I see Him working through the people in my church all the time. When my mom was sick, they were constantly bringing casseroles and checking in on us and offering to drive me places or cut our grass or serve us dinner. For most of grade ten my dad was too busy taking my mom to treatments to drive me into the city for school, so a different member of my church would drive me every day. Even now, so many people remember the anniversary of her death and check in on my dad and I to see how we’re doing all the time.
So maybe you feel like God is there, and maybe you just can’t see him in your life. No matter where you’re at, I hope you’ll give church a chance. It’s not just about showing up and reading a bible. Church is a safe place to land, it’s a support system when times are tough, and it can become family if you find the right place. For me, God is love, and I see that love every week in the faces that smile at me on Sunday morning.