Friday, 19 August 2022

A wandering nomad I

 We negotiated a 3 month break from church back at the end of May with a view to a little time out, possibly to look around, only for my mother to get sick & die. Since the start of August we've made ourselves make the effort to visit other churches, not least because the likelihood of completely detaching was increasing (it's been great NOT having to do stuff) and because we felt under pressure to come to a conclusion.

It's curious how so many (esp Gen Zers) treat church like a hobby that doesn't matter, yet it can also become a weight and a drain if you're the kind of people who - like us - see the seriousness of it and commit. For me, it's long been a drain - a thing that takes more than it gives, leaves me feeling frustrated, cross, tired, wanted for what I do more than who I am and not a place I can discuss the struggles I have. Worst of all, for a long time it's felt like we've just been going through the motions with no reality behind what we're doing - If I'm going to do formula church then let me go somewhere I can just sit in a pew without needing to engage and be challenged to a mission I don't want to participate in.

Interesting - that took on a life of it's own while writing.

So we've been looking at other churhces in the area, unfortunately during silly season when everyone is on holiday and stop-gaps get arranged until normality resumes in September.

We've seen 3 so far, not including the village church here (that's tempting, simply because pew-sitting is the main requirement). One, we had a sense that there might be quite a bit I could do to contribute with my particular skill sets (we can see where that's going!) one felt immediately comfy but seemed theologically chaotic and one was both extremely intense and also deeply formulaic at the same time. We may well re-visit some or all, because I'm going to extend our time off. 

 So we still wander. 


  1. Hi Toni. It's been a while since I've checked in! For some reason I went to my own blog...which I have not updated in almost a year and needs to be moved as LT is getting out of the hosting business...maybe I should just let it disappear? Not sure. I'm still interested in writing....

    I'm sorry about the passing of your mom. I realize that at 90 that's not entirely a surprise, but still not easy. We visited my mom (83 years old) in BC over the August long weekend. She's doing fairly well, but slowing down, and this visit was the first time it really came to mind that the visits with Mom will not go on forever. I had to choke back some tears when we said goodbye and made a promise to myself that I would come out much more often while I can, even if it means flying over by myself.

    It's interesting reading your comments about church. I've been thinking about this stuff quite a bit lately. I'm waiting to see what September looks like at our church, but it really does seem like our church like many others is going through some kind of shift. At the height of all the emerging church stuff 15+ years ago, Phyllis Tickle wrote a book in which she argued the convincingly that every 500 years or so the church goes through a major shift. I suspect that's still going on and it didn't end when all things "emerging" shifted to the background or died out. But what's surprising me is that it *seems* like even older people—not only Gen Z, or X (my age group), or millenials, but retirees seem to be shifting into a "hobby" approach to church. People committed to Jesus, from all I can tell, but not so committed to a local communal expression of that faith. I'm not sure what to make of that. It's confusing me. But, as I say, we'll see what September brings...and there may be other factors at play locally.

    I wonder sometimes if we're doing too much stuff that we do just because we do them and require more people from a diminishing volunteer group. If we cut all the superfluous stuff out, what's left? Can we reduce it to corporate worship and "organic" care for each other?

    Long comment after such a long time!

    1. Hi Mark - it's REALLY good to hear from you again, since I thought you'd abandoned the blogosphere.

      Rest of comment below.

  2. The fate of your blog is a difficult thing to comment on. If that phase of your life is over & done as it seems to be for Dixie then probably best just to close it & have done. If you might re-start then do keep it alive.

    Life is a one-way ticket, and none of us get out of this alive in the conventional sense (now there's a theological topic to get ones teeth into!) and my mother had been ready to go for a long time - my father has been dead more than 30 years, and was 10 years younger than I am now when he died. It's a release for her, a relief for us in some ways and overall the right time. I appreciate we're very different, so talking about how the emotions have affected me is probably not useful for you. If we ever see each other again and it's helpful then, we can talk some more.

    And so church.

    I think it's always been changing when allowed, even in the 'fixed' traditions. Inevitably people are a product of their environment and that shapes how they manage and interpret the things around them including things of faith and belief. I don't know more of Phyllis Tickle than the name (which sounds like the best bit!) but the church is a very wide-spread and diverse set of organisations, and I'd be cautious suggesting a time-line. I'm leaving God out of the discussion because from present perspective, I wonder how much He shapes things and how much He just leaves people to get on with it. At least, at times. I've occasionally commented that I wouldn't want to be part of a church that could hold together if god weren't involved, yet it very much feels like that's the position every church I know has evolved to. It makes me ask whether we were just mistaken in the first place, and the Christianity we're been trying to follow is a marvellous human construct that's at least partially made up.

    Many and awkward questions.

    I've not abandoned things - I'd love for heavenly trumpets to sound and chariots of fire to descend - but since those don't seem to happen I'm in the place where I DO question what is real and what isn't.

    As Johanna used to say. Meh.

  3. I think Tickle (hee hee) was simply observing a broad trend through church history, rather than setting a time-line: Rome becomes officially "Christian" (300s); west/east (Catholic/Orthodox) split in the church (1000s); Protestant Reformation (1500s), and she was writing at the height of the Emerging Church scene. The trend is clearly there and, recognizing the fact that the church/faith has always been changing to one degree or another, it does seem like Christianity/church/faith has been going through particilarly significant change in the last 20 years. This is not meant to start an argument, just observing Tickle's point. I suspect this change could be very good for the worldwide church, but it's exhausting to think about, never mind face it head on.

  4. Ah, gotcha. No argument intended - it's actually nice to have a discussion again.

    I worry somewhat for the western church, that having had a period of new life and restoration, all that is being lost as people chase after emotions and shadows, and the need to include everyone whatever their perference and taste is. With the older traditions, although there was little overt life, they did have a set of rules to fall back on. We went to Matins in our local CoE church last Sunday and quite a bit of it was sung, making me thing a little of fake tongues, and how the feel of a service like that would appeal to those searching for a spiritual or mystical experience without necessarily going beyond the natural human source.

    We're probably going to try a baptist church for the second time this weekend - I'm trying to keep an open mind, but not so open my brain falls out.


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