Sunday, December 13, 2015

“Lessons In Belonging From A Church-Going Commitment Phobe”

Erin Lane, who has friends in Chico, “works for the Seattle-based nonprofit Center for Courage and Renewal as an assistant program director for clergy and congregational leader programs.” She’s also a millennial (a generation “born between 1982 and 2004”) who has struggled with how to be part of a community, especially a local church.

Out of her experiences has come “Lessons In Belonging From A Church-Going Commitment Phobe” ($16 in paperback from InterVarsity Press; also for Amazon Kindle). “Mine is a story,” she writes, “of trying to belong to the church, to my husband, friends and strangers, too. It’s a story about enduring community when it’s awkward, when small talk suffocates and the preacher gives bad sermons and the suffering of others is intrusive. It’s about choosing to trust people, not because they’ve earned it but because you want to.”

She writes about “the rituals of belonging in a particular iteration of mainline, evangelical, American Protestantism. Although my experiences are unique to me as a woman, a white person, an introvert, a Midwesterner and a millennial, I hope to offer some insight into broader patterns of belonging,” especially “what it tells us about the God who has the audacity to call us ‘my people.’”

She spent her time in graduate school “speed dating” local churches, but nothing clicked. And, “being married to a pastor, I had withstood more than a few of Rush’s job interviews and was left scratching my head at the politics of it all.”

And yet: “It’s hard to call the church out when we’re not faithfully under its shelter. … If we want the church to be a place where we no longer feel like strangers, we need to take ownership for the ways our actions—and our inability to belong—have made it harder for others like us to find their home there.”

Drawing on her early family experiences; her time with Rush in North Carolina, where he worked at one church and she attended another; and her often fragile attempts at belonging, Lane finds the urge to “be” carries with it a deep sense of “longing.”

“Homesickness,” she writes, “is our spiritual condition.”    

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