“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary. Pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”
—Randy Scruggs, John W. Thompson
In recent years, I have been interviewing people, asking them to tell their own stories about why they no longer attend church. The personal accounts have been emotional–noting piousness, hypocrisy, and narrow-mindedness among other church attendees and leaders. People (yes, people) were the common determinant in decisions to stray from the Christian Church as a proverbial sheep wanders from its flock. I will be sharing excerpts from these interviews in upcoming blog posts because they speak to a relevant conversation about the growing call for respect toward people rather than bigotry and bullying. Stay tuned for interviews surrounding timely communication on topics that include homosexuality, racism, sexism, abuse of power, pretense of virtue, autism, child molestation, and Biblical questioning.
My Prayer to Passage today was from the book ‘Jesus Calling’ by Sarah Young. I prayed that today’s passage in the day book would bring me solace of spirit for the introduction of these interviews to you. Here is the passage for July 29:
“Come to Me Continually. I am meant to be the Center of your consciousness, the Anchor of your soul. Your mind will wander from Me, but the question is how far you allow it to wander. An anchor on a short rope lets a boat drift only slightly before the taut line tugs the boat back toward the center. Similarly, as you drift away from Me, My Spirit within you gives a tug, prompting you to return to Me. As you become increasingly attuned to My Presence, the length of rope on your soul’s Anchor is shortened. You wander only a short distance before feeling that inner tug – telling you to return to your true Center in Me.”
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.
The following are selections from my interview of Dorothy, an 83-year-old woman who tells her story of being discouraged from continuing to attend church:
DORTHY, GRANDMOTHER, AGE 83:
“My dad died when I was three. And we moved to Pine City, Minnesota. My mom and I, several years later, moved down to Minneapolis. We always went to church. That’s one of the first things she did when we moved into town; she found a church. She taught Sunday School. I’ve gone to church all my life. And after she died, I went to live with my older sisters. They took me to church. We sang in the choir and helped with Sunday School. I was active then.
When Charlie and I were first married, we didn’t attend church. Then right after our first child was born, we wanted her baptized. So we became members. When my kids got big enough to go to Sunday School, I wanted them raised in the Church. And I think that happens quite often with people. Even kids after confirmation; often they’ll stop attending. Then, if they’ve been raised in church, they return. Charlie and I found Peace Church and started going there. We were active. And I know that doesn’t make someone a Christian, but I’ve always felt a closeness to God.
I go in cycles. I have always gone in cycles. For a period of time, I feel really close to God. And then sometimes things happen. Things happen at church or with people. I shouldn’t let people affect me, but they do. So I wouldn’t go. Then I feel that pull where I need God in my life
On Sunday mornings, when I am getting ready to go to church, I listen to a church service on the radio. I like that service. Often times, I get more out of that than when I’ve been in a church service. And part of it is that there are no distractions. I need to concentrate on what I am listening to. In the sanctuary, there are children and movements and people coming in and going out. I get distracted
My feeling of distraction, and even my feeling of being disturbed, is not with God. It’s with people. And part of that is myself, because it depends on how I look at things. People can say or do things that are hurtful. In a church, I see there are those who represent the role of boss. There are those who represent the role of being in the upper echelon.
Charlie once joined a board at our church. He went to a meeting and came home and said that he never had a chance to give any of his ideas. He was just there. He tried to speak, and the other board members spoke over him. So he never went back. I think people don’t realize they are doing that. People need to be more conscious of how they treat others. People need to welcome others into opportunities like that. Some people just have stronger personalities. I need to forgive and let it go.
There are always cliques, it seems. In anything I’ve belonged to it has seemed that there have been cliques. I wish people would be more sensitive to that. It brings to mind thoughts of middle school. That’s a difficult age. For any child, I think that’s a difficult age. Children are trying to figure out where they fit in. And as an adult, not fitting in feels awful too. Nobody should be judgmental. We don’t know what’s in someone else’s heart.
I remember after my mother died I was lying in bed one night in my sister’s home and praying. I was fourteen years old. (I knew this was going to be difficult to talk about. I don’t know why I’m crying because it was a wonderful moment.) It was as if the Holy Spirit had come into me. And I really knew what it was. I knew the peace. I will never forget that; I can visualize it now. I remember how it felt. And I thought, ‘This is what it is. My mom is there.’ It wasn’t very long after she had passed. It was in that moment that I received something that I had never really received before. It was a remarkable feeling that the Holy Spirit had come into me, and I knew there was a God. I’ve never shared that memory with anyone before. So, that’s my journey.
I like to believe that we all pray to the same God. And I think the Christian Church is changing. I don’t know that people will always go to the building. It might become more like in the beginning when people met in small groups with their beliefs. And there might be more of a closeness. Sometimes a great big church with many members is too separate for me. It might be a long time from now, yet I hope the Church will return to that closeness and intimacy.”