i’m leaving the church

that let me hide out in the beginning,

like a stray animal for which you feign ignorance,

dropping spare crumbs from the Table, so it can

ease into breathing this kind of air before approaching you.

i’m leaving the church

that passed me Christ’s peace in eyes and mouth and hands,

not hurried, embarrassed, or even surprised to find me there,

even happy to see me in a pew becoming regular,

forgetting and learning my name a thousand times.

i’m leaving the church

that called me songbird when my voice grew strong again,

and has that funny upward lilt when we hit the part that goes,

we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

and says it like all other words depend on it.

i’m leaving the church

that sobbed honest through the prayers of the people

when children were shot down in Connecticut,

and steeled itself for action as the rain fell

on the fires of West, just 17 miles north.

i’m leaving the church

that reads the Bible in 90 days because scripture matters,

that asks the hard, wild, beautiful, terrifying questions,

but doesn’t act like it has all the answers

[though you’ll never be left all alone in the dark].

i’m leaving the church

that is a little clumsy sometimes,

not always knowing exactly the right thing to say,

or how to serve the least of these, or how to ‘build community,’

but God, it never gives up the fight.

i’m leaving the church

who understands the rhythms of the river,

 not once pressuring me to confirm my place in its walls,

but enfolded me anyway, a vagrant, knowing that

even if I was passing through, I’d need food for the journey.

i’m leaving the church

that rejoiced when I decided to adopt them back,

that commissioned me in confirmation,

empowering me for service, taking my hand to say

let us go in peace, to love and serve the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia!

———————————-////———————————-

thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia.

In case you couldn’t tell, I wouldn’t leave St. Paul’s, my church in Waco–my ‘home church, if you will–if I could help it. As I’ve said in painstaking detail here and elsewhere, I’m moving to North Carolina next week, and will find a new place to worship there. I am so incredibly thankful for the community of St. Paul’s that offered grace in a thousand small ways over the last two years, safe space for the Lord to move in.

I am especially grateful to Fr. Chuck, Amma Jo, and Amma Erin Jean for their ministry to the parish, and to me, in ways they couldn’t even guess. I am in awe of the ways in which they are faithful to God and the church.

Incidentally, I am adding this post to a throng of stories over at A Deeper Church as part of a larger conversation about church. I hope you will read other stories in the comments there–they’re stunning.

grace and peace to you, friends. may you find a house of prayer to love and be loved in.

The altar in Ordinary Time, under a canopy of painted stars. John, shepherd-Jesus, and Paul, from left to right. photo by St. Paul’s Episcopal church, Waco.

The [recently built] Chapel of the Four Sisters, where midweek Eucharist is held, as well as other prayer services throughout the year. When Sarah Bessey writes, “calm your heart,” I think of this chapel, exactly. [though I wish I had a better picture].

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38 thoughts on “i’m leaving the church

  1. Oh this is beautiful. What a celebration of a family, a community, a place. And this line – “and says it like all other words depend on it” – found an amen in me where I didn’t realise there was one. Praying you’ll find a home in North Carolina.

    • oh Alise, thank you for stopping in here. I think the hard and beautiful thing for me is that I have the good, the bad, and the ugly church stories, some that are too painful to even tell. But the good stories are out there, too. And I hope to never make it sound like any one church is doing all the right things, though St. Paul’s is special in many ways. The whole wide community of faith is full of people being Christ to one another [or at least trying!]

      • Oh, sister, I hear you. I think most of us have a wide variety of stories. And I don’t think that celebrating the things that your church does well in any way indicates that it’s 100% good. Because doy. 😉

  2. This is very lovely, and reminded me very much of the church I grew up in. its funny how even after 19 years it still holds a place in my heart. Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece and for stirring happy memories x

  3. I live in NC, I hope you find a wonderful place here in our state; so sorry you have to leave such a wonderful body

  4. If, God forbid, I should ever have to leave my church, I would describe it just this way! Coming from an evangelical background I have recently, at the age of 63, become part of an Episcopal church. My experience is so like yours! I pray you will find another community in which to learn, worship, and serve in NC. Beautifully written! Thanks for sharing…

  5. Since you are leaving an Episcopal Church, I can give a few details about where you are going. Progressive diocese in a currently not-so-progressive state. Lots of variety in the congregations in Durham, Chapel Hill, & Raleigh, so there is a good chance you can find something that can become a new home. The Episcopal Campus Ministry has Sunday evening services on Central Campus and definitely sees div and grad students.

    • thank you for the heads-up. I had noticed that there were more Anglican and Episcopal churches in the area than I expected! I had wondered about the Campus Ministry as well–I really loved the student center at Baylor this past year, even though I had already graduated. peace and grace to you!

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    • oh man. I know you have! crazy to think how much has happened since we first talked that wedding weekend. It was one of the first reciprocal conversations I’d had about some of this–the relief of “me, too.” so, thanks, almost two years later! blessings to you as well.

      (p.s. I love the mashup of “Charismanglican. might have used that one once or twice. or some variant.)

  7. Thanks for this. Makes me think of leaving as in “being commissioned.”

    Good luck at Duke Div. I just graduated and moved away in May. You’ll find plenty of wonderful Anglican/Episcopal congregations in Durham, and I see someone recommended All Saints’ UMC (also a great church), but I would not have made it through seminary without Emmaus Way (emmausway.net).

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  10. This has been sitting in my queue for a week and I’m SO GLAD I came back to it. Absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for speaking to the goodness that can be church. I celebrate it with you and bless you as you move. There will be another – it just may take a while to find.

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