“I’m afraid all of our friends will give up rock’n’roll to become worship leaders,” I told my Someone.
“Which of our friends still does rock’n’roll?” he asked.
“You know how I mean.”
“Yeah,” he said, “I do.”
I don’t want to go to church anymore. Not that I do. But now, I really, really don’t. Not as a courtesy to my hosts or my parents. Not as an Easter-and-Christmas check in. Not even as a check-my-spiritual-temperature visit.
I don’t miss the liturgy. I don’t miss the squirming. I don’t miss the oscillating sensation between unworthiness and ecstasy. I don’t miss the feeling I get when I walk through the doors– that I’ve been caught again. Caged.
And I don’t miss the idea that what happens in a sanctuary is more important than what happens outside of it. It just isn’t for me.
But I am envious. I’m envious of my friends who are having children and returning to their roots– their church going roots that seemed to really stick. With the exception of cooler haircuts and Jesus-as-Hipster accessibility, they seem to be continuing a tradition that has kept them safe, and will continue to keep their families safe. A tradition where childcare is free for a couple of hours, and the snacks aren’t too shabby. Some are even drinking beer during Bible study. I’m not envious of their commitment to go every Sunday, though. I’m envious of their ease in going– I’m envious that they want to go. Or if they don’t want to go, that they want to be disciplined enough to go when they don’t want to go. That they are choosing it, anyway.
“I don’t want to go to church,” I said.
“You don’t have to,” my Someone said.
“I want to stay at home and do crosswords and drink coffee and wear shorts that don’t cover my butt all the way, instead,” I said.
My Someone laughed.
“It’s just,” I pushed, “I don’t get nearly the pleasure out of going to church, as I do the pleasure of not going. I feel like I’m getting away with something every single Sunday morning.”
It’s true. I feel special. Mischievous. Like I’ve stolen hours that no one else gets to enjoy. And it feels sacred. I haven’t regularly attended anywhere for over a decade, and once the guilt wore out, I’ve relished every Sunday morning as a true gift of omission. Like I’ve won again, and everyone else is a sucker.
“Your church sounds better, anyway,” my Someone said.
“You just like the butt part.”“We call it church,” Megan said. “It just means that everyone comes whenever they’re ready, and we eat brunch, and we listen to a box of vinyl all day.”
We played our pal’s birthday party in their house just outside of Kansas City, where tacos and too many margaritas abound. Our friends have a way of wooing generous people with their abundant generosity. And we were invited to join the congregation.
It’d been a week since my no-more-church proclamation. And now was an invitation to attend.
“Oh, and we make Bloody Mary’s and pour mimosas all day, too” she said.
As it turns out, Bloody Mary comes with less stigmata and stigma than the Blood of Christ. So, even with a slight headache, we schlepped from our camper to the front door, opening it to find that the preparations for the service had begun. A vegan and gluten free quiche was baking, and the tomato juice and vodka waited expectantly on the counter. There was a quietness and last night’s Happy Birthday sign still hanging from the ceiling. I wondered if my pajamas were appropriate attire, then decided instead to accept myself as this congregation would accept me. Wholly. Holy. And with a side skewer of olives and pickles.
This Sunday morning, I didn’t feel like I had gotten away with anything. As more of the congregation entered, groggy and smiling, I realized that I wasn’t envious of anyone else’s Sunday morning, either. This must be what it’s like to go to church. The kind you leave refreshed and believing you’d want to do again. The kind where you are free to come and go as you please. The kind you can find anywhere. The kind that I’ve been told exists within us, wherever two or more are gathered.
Two or more and maybe a bottle of wine.