The Elusive Inclusive Religious Community


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We were more than halfway done with the 7 hour stretch from far eastern Washington back to our hometown. It had been a whirlwind 24 hours moving Boof’s grandma into a more extensive level of assisted living. Two adults, a toddler, and a dog, had made the trip last minute, and now were were sitting in a nostalgic Mexican restaurant in my college town.

It was 3pm and in came several different groups, all dressed up. Skirts, dresses, ties and suits for the men. Even the children were dressed nicely, which made me eyeball Potamus in his dirty Spiderman t-shirt and monster truck rainboots. Sunday. Church. Yeah.

I lived in that small town. My life revolved around Sunday service and Tuesday night college ministry and Wednesday night volunteer for junior high youth group. I led Bible Study on Thursday nights (and sometimes Monday nights), and went to Mass with friends when I could squeeze it in. When I lived in the dorms I did a nightly prayer night with other people in my hall, and I regularly went on weekend retreats and mission trips. It was like brushing my teeth, going to class, or getting something to eat at the dining hall. A rhythm of life.

The experience of sitting next to a table full of small town church goers sparked a long conversation the rest of the two hour drive home. We feel so torn, both of us on how to proceed in the spiritual community. It’s not the first time we’ve had this conversation, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But we’re stuck in this place of not knowing, not deciding, and not knowing what to do about it. Do we go to the church we feel sort of connected to, but the average age is 75? Do we go to the church down the road where Boof grew up and there’s a thriving Sunday school, but fundamentally in a theology that I don’t agree with? Do we find somewhere else? Do we not do anything?

What I came away from the conversation, was an ability to articulate my desire to not send Potamus to a Sunday school that teaches things I don’t agree with. Boof said that his parents chose that church because it had a children’s ministry, even if they didn’t necessarily feel comfortable with it. And my pushback was…WHY? Why am I, as a mom, who makes many other sacrifices, going to sacrifice the next 10/15/20 years going weekly to a religious service with people that I don’t fundamentally feel accepted by or agree with? Do MY needs as a person not matter as much as the theoretical ‘needs’ of my child? AND, do I send my child to a place where he will make friends and form relationships on a principle or set of beliefs that I fundamentally don’t believe in anymore?

It’s food for thought, for sure. Because Boof has less angst, and certainly less of a ‘bad experience’ from growing up religious, he sees that it will be a fun place for him to get to have some stories and make friends. But my argument is that he can have friends and hear stories at our house, or daycare, or a different church, or different club activity, or different religious institution altogether. I don’t think that my needs as woman/wife/mom should be shoved under the rug to fit a 1950’s ideal of an every week Sunday experience.

And yet, I feel torn, because I want to believe in something. I want Potamus to believe in something. I miss the routine and the community and the fitting in I felt when I was in college, when I was apart of that faith routine. I miss believing in something that felt right and good and connected me to others. I read articles and see that there are other people writing about being young parents with children who want a community where questions are valued and their kids can be themselves and they can be themselves, but then I go to church and don’t find that these places actually exist (except, like I mentioned at the beginning, in congregations with quite older members). Why is this such a frustration?!

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