When You Don't Belong in Church (But Show Up Anyway)

Last year, my Pastor invited me to contribute to a Quaker publication she helps oversee. My initial response was excitement (see Sitting in the WIC Office on my 29th Birthday), but my enthusiasm quickly fizzled out. Not because I didn't want to contribute, but because I felt that I couldn't write authentically.

I have loved writing for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pen. The fact that someone else saw that passion and wanted to provide an outlet for it was both flattering and humbling. However, when I attempted to put paper to pen (or in my case, fingers to keys), I was overcome with fear and guilt. How could I possibly write about my faith when I barely have any? We've been attending our local Quaker meeting for a little over a year. We love the community, but the fact remains, I don't know that I believe wholeheartedly in what my community believes. I am nothing more than a Quaker fraud.

When I was baptized by my nondenominational Church at the age of 16, I shared my Christian testimony. My family had always been the “Christmas and Easter” type of Christians, but faith was not a big component of my upbringing. After too many years of physical and verbal abuse brought on by his alcoholism, my step-dad (at the time) made the decision to join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). His sobriety was to be a family endeavor, and so I began attending Church and youth group. That was how I found Jesus, and then two years later, found myself at a Christian college.

My faith has had high highs and low lows. I had faith when I desperately needed it, but over time, I admit, I’ve become skeptical. There wasn’t one traumatic incident that led to my loss of faith. And because I worry that this admission will lead people to worry for my soul or think I’m headed down a dangerous path of unbelief, I feel like I may need to defend my character a little bit.

Despite my unbelief, I am a good person. I’ve worked in the nonprofit sphere helping low-income families obtain healthy food. I’ve volunteered my time to raising awareness and funds for anti-human trafficking organizations. And if nothing else, I’m a pretty great Mom to my two young children. But, I don’t know that I can call myself a Christian.

So, if I’m not a Christian, what the heck am I doing attending a Quaker meeting? Because though the origins of our motivations may not be the same, I find so much value and goodness in the Quaker tradition. After the 2016 Presidential election, I was feeling pretty depressed by the state of humanity. I looked around at the people in my life whom I admired and found a common thread between them- they were all capital “F” Friends.

With two young impressionable children on either hip, I started attending meeting because I wanted my boys to be surrounded by a community of helpers. A community of people who believed in simplicity, sustainability, truth, equality, peace and above all- love. I wasn’t looking for a place of worship so that I could be converted or proselytized to, and never once has my Church family made me feel that way. I simply wanted to immerse myself and my family in a larger family of Quakers because of what they stood for.

I admit, after over a year of (spottily) attending my local meeting, I sit in the last pew beside my husband and kids and still feel a sense of self-inflicted guilt and unbelonging. Because of my unbelief, I feel like nothing more than a Quaker fraud. And yet, whether intentional or not, my Quaker family carves out a place for me every Sunday morning. I may not belong, but my extended family of Friends makes room at the table time and again for even a fraud like me.

Photo credit belongs to my wonderful Pastor, Julie.

No comments:

Post a Comment