By our third year in seminary, my friends had mostly settled in at specific churches, but my wanderlust was still strong.
Unfortunately, I struggled to motivate myself to visit churches by myself, finding it weird and awkward to have to sit places by myself
The first time I went to church by myself was during my first year at Candler. I had horrible, mind-blowingly-awful cramps, couldn’t concentrate on a word the preacher was saying, and no one in the entire 1000-member congregation had so much as spoken a word to me. So when the passing of the peace came, I left. Walking out of church was VERY liberating. I knew no one would miss me. And I knew that I didn’t need to stay in or attend church out of a sense of duty. And that was the last time that year I attempted to go stained-glass-window-shopping alone.
But as the fall progressed, I began doing a lot of self-work in the following areas:
1) acting independently–and enjoying it
2) picking up the desire to visit churches—a desire to experience God’s presence
My first individual foray was to a Quaker meeting. I landed there and didn’t leave for a while. Advent is given new meaning when you wait in silence during it: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous love is given… cast out our sin and enter in…” And for a silent church, they were the friendliest congregation I have ever been a part of!
I took a class on the borders between Christianity and Judaism, so I headed to The Reform Temple for Shabbat services (okay, so this doesn’t count as a “church” — but it was beautiful!) and to a messianic synagogue (and this DOES count as a “church,” even if it is on a Saturday morning!). I joined my valentine at St. Mark UMC (vibrant downtown church at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion in the Southeast Jurisdiction… my church leadership professor describes the church as “handing out water to civil rights marchers in the 1960s and handing out snacks to gay pride marchers in the 1990s… their character/identity is the same—only the manifestation of their character has changed”).
And this semester, before classes started for the spring, I decided to visit an Orthodox church, knowing that they last longer than most Protestant services (and the Quaker church, which was starting to feel like home), so I wanted to “get it out of the way” before the semester and I didn’t have time for such lengthy things
But that one visit has turned into a month-long excursion to visiting Orthodox churches around Atlanta. I’ve learned more & more about the Divine Liturgy each week, and I am now a month into a catechumen class at the Greek Orthodox Church. (In case my Board of Ordained Ministry is reading this, I have no plans of converting, but…)
So this week on my blog, I am committed to sharing about my visits to Orthodox churches (plus a Coptic church!) in Atlanta. Curious? Stay tuned!