So...I went to a new church today. And I can't tell you how good it felt (and still feels).
I was raised in one faith and quit a long time ago. There was not - and still is not - a place at their table for everyone, and that did not work for me.
After a long break without any real religion and my soul desperately wanting to be fed, I joined the Protestant church (UCC) in 2002 and found what I needed. I was a member until 2013, when it stopped being the right place for me. I left behind many wonderful and gifted people, but it no longer felt like the place I had originally loved.
I found that, while I missed attending worship, I loved not having to be anywhere on Sunday mornings and that suited me just fine. I could go outside and feed my soul during a walk in the woods or just sitting with my husband having coffee. I was good.
In October 2016 we attended a benefit for the North Reading Food Pantry, hosted by Aldersgate United Methodist Church (Taste of North Reading). We were looking forward to sampling food from local eateries and supporting the food pantry. The event did not disappoint. Yummy food, super cool raffle baskets (we won 3!) and some incredibly nice people. The Aldersgate Pastor, Rachel Fisher, and her husband Sam kept us company during dinner. They might have sat at any table - I think they knew everyone in the room. Instead, they ate with two strangers. I felt like I had known them forever by the time dinner was over.
That night, for the first time in a long time, I missed being part of a church family. My husband suggested I visit Aldersgate, seeing as how I now knew the Pastor and it's very close to where we live. I hesitated a little, because I wasn't clear on where the Methodist church stood on inclusion - that is very important to me. As soon as I visited the church's website, I knew - they have a statement of inclusion posted right on the home page. I was so happy to see that & it sealed the deal.
In November, I brought my little card business to the Aldersgate holiday fair. Not only did I sell some cards, I met many nice people. I was ready to go back to church and was going to this church -- as soon as the holiday season was behind me.
I had resolved to attend on New Year's Day - figuring it would be a great way to kick off the new year. As fate would have it, Pastor Rachel chose New Year's Eve morning to reach out to see how I was and to see if I was planning a visit. Good thing she did. When I told her my plans, she let me know that worship had been moved back to Saturday morning, so that everyone could sleep in on New Year's day. I laugh thinking of myself sitting in an empty parking lot on New Year's Day had she not written.
This morning I was so looking forward to going. I was greeted warmly by everyone I passed. Worship was joyous. Words to hymns were projected on the wall so we all looked up and sang - no heads buried in hymnals. A confession here: I almost never sing out loud when other people can hear me. I cannot carry a tune in a bucket. I'm usually like Milli Vanilli, - just moving my lips. That is, until today. I actually sang out loud. It didn't seem to matter who might hear - everyone was singing and it was impossible not to join in.
After worship I met more people and Pastor Rachel presented me with a Welcome gift. Beneath the bright issue inside the gift bag was an AUMC pencil, a small candle, and a book by Max Lucado (He Did This Just for You). My gift bag is the right combination for reflective reading and prayer and learning. Such a thoughtful gesture of welcome.
I am looking forward to more Sundays and to becoming involved. More than anything, I'm looking forward to being part of a church family again.
If you ever feel there is something missing from your life - I say to you - go exploring to find it...you never know when your soul will finally feel at home.