Today, I am happy to welcome, Barbara McDowell, to my blog. At her blog, Life Can’t Drive 55, Barbara posts about a variety of topics such as her musical inspirations, writing journey, the quirks of life (hello spring cleaning) and longstanding addictions for all things dancing, performance reality TV shows and boy bands. Do make sure you pop over to check out Barbara’s blog. Just say hello and she’ll welcome you in and pass some dark chocolate.
On Finding a Church Home
“I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it. For I shall not pass this way again.” ~ William Penn
I’ve carried this quote in my purse, written on a 3×5 index card, since high school. I’ll forget that I have it and then, when cleaning out or switching purses, there it is. It is an unspoken code I work to put into practice and am regularly reminded of the fragile nature of life. There are things that I have yet to do on my journey. I believe part of the quest has been to find and fellowship with likeminded souls.
Growing up, my family belonged to a Baptist church. By default, I suppose I did too, though I never liked the pastor—with his shifty eyes and autocratic style—nor felt at all at home there. Members were to be seen, not heard, and we made more of a production on being properly attired than time spent in the pew. As I got older, my mother would visit other churches and make sure I was always in Vacation Bible School and other programs. As the family unit began to fracture, first emotionally then physically, we stopped going all together.
I’ve been a bit of a visitor ever since and my journey has taken me through the doors of countless Baptist churches with a smattering of other denominations. With all of the varying doctrines and practices, one walking in the door seeking a place of landing can many times find discord. There would be repeated begging for building funds for phantom structures that never manifested. Calls for tithers, but no evidence of involvement or giving back to the community. I’ve heard the ramblings of politics for those rising to internal leadership positions, weekly rants about the abominations of selected flavors of the month and sermons circling on the evils of mankind. You sure can’t feel loved and connected when being told you are bad and unworthy each week.
The biggest disappointment was a church whose leader I’d enjoyed and respected, only to attend the first new member course and receive a booklet filled with essay after essay of biblical reasons why women would not have a voice or any unsupervised authority in his church. Based on the rules, if I had a question, I’d need to speak quietly with a man versus bring my issues up in public to a larger body. And this should be done by a wife unto her husband in the home, so single gals were out of luck and would need to just suffer in silent ignorance. Women were not allowed to teach men, thus would be kept out of the classroom (unless leading children) and pulpit. None would ever serve as elders. From this, I evolved into a bit of a loner considering myself to be spiritual, but not made for organized religion.
A regular viewer of Pastor Joel Osteen and his broadcasts from Lakewood Church in Houston, I had the opportunity to visit a few winters ago. The experience of community was undeniable from getting directions to park my car, greeters on the pathway in and the guest hostess who made it a point to sit the Ohio birthday girl up front. The message preached was Bible-based and one of uplift. Those offering prayer in the front were there to comfort, not to judge. The choir songs invited us all to join in.
The welcoming spirit continued as I walked through the hall, meandered in the bookstore and then waited in line to meet Joel. Now that was a life highlight moment. My take away was that a place of worship could be a home to joy. It could be a place to come for restoration. It could be a place for both bonding with others or solitude if needed.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
I’m now heading into the fifth class of new member training at another church, and the verses above were from last week’s homework. I patted my weathered index card as I wrote about what the fruit meant to me. This is a place whose pastor considers the church to be for the city. The lessons are based in scripture and focus on continued series of learning instead of one-time topics. There are multiple ministries tailored to cover the congregation’s needs. Women serve as internal teachers and satellite church leaders. And of the seven bedrock principles, two cover outreach and community involvement. Finding a church home is like many quests we start upon in life. You may stumble, slow down or stall, but you continue on. And when you’ve found the right place, your spirit will know.
How have you found opportunities for fellowship in your life? Where has your spiritual journey taken you? Is there a verse, quote or mantra you live by?
By day, Barbara McDowell works in training and development, managing the educational needs and course development for the staff of a regional accounting firm. In the depths of the night, she is a crafter of stories birthed with dark, human themes. Suspense at each corner turned. Terror sometimes waiting at the end. Initially a short story writer, Barbara is in process on her first novel that focuses on the twists of redemption and forgiveness. A lover of coffee, cats, crime dramas, crochet, conspiracy theories and chocolate, Barbara can be found blogging at http://writenowlife.wordpress.com/ or tweeting at @BMcDowellOH.
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