Looks like Folknotions paved the way for me on this one. I’d pretty much forgotten about YAR until yesterday TimN sent me a new incoming comment on a post I’d put up well over two years ago.
Like Folknotions, I didn’t leave YAR because I thought YAR was a bad place or because anyone had angered me. Rather…
1. I’m not Mennonite anymore, even though Anabaptism still influences my thinking and theology.
I started attending a Mennonite church with my family when I was 12. I left that church a little over a year ago, at 25, because of some undesirable circumstances that culminated and made clear to me in an instant that it wasn’t the church for me anymore. I haven’t set foot in that building for anything church-y since, and have had only limited contact with its members since. (My family still goes there, though, and I have lots of contact with them.)
When I left initially, I took a few weeks off from faith communities. I decided to check out a United Church of Christ congregation in the small town where I was living at the time. My dad’s side of the family is all UCC, so I felt a little more comfortable checking out a UCC church than the Methodist church next door, to which I had no pre-existing connection. I felt a need to participate in a faith community, but my finances had become such that I needed a church to which I could walk. Since I was planning on moving from that small town, I knew from the start that this congregation would be a transitional church for me.
It was a relatively “safe” place for me to be at that time in my life. I had broken off an engagement to someone I loved very much, and he was still making me miserable through stalking me and some other measures. In contrast to the Mennonite church I’d left, where there was an insanely high percentage of twentysomethings, this UCC church was highly concentrated with people above 70 years of age. It had the “new and different” appeal to me of being a fairly liturgical church and following a more formalized pattern of rituals than the Mennonite congregation. I know it’s backwards to most people for anyone to “discover” liturgy as something “new and different,” but I guess you’ll get that when every church you’ve regularly attended your entire life has eschewed any connection to the lectionary.
I moved a month and a half ago. I’m back in the city where I grew up, but I’m experiencing it in quite different ways than I had before. I’m working at a credit union with a very urban (read: black and poor) membership, and I’ve started attending another UCC church. This one isn’t so white-haired, and it’s allegedly the only “progressive” church in a four-county area. Maybe that’s just considering UCC churches, I don’t know. Anyway, this faith community is all about “accepting and affirming” people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, ethnicities, native languages, ability levels, income levels, etc. And, they’ve most impressively affirmed me as a vegetarian, which tends to weird-out people in church settings. I’ve only been there a short time, but I’ve felt more welcomed and encouraged to flourish than I have anywhere else. Time will tell if their actions back up their words, of course, but it’s incredible even to have the words.
I’m still a pacifist, I still look askance at infant baptism (don’t ask me about the Catholic baptism-of-a-two-year-old I participated in as the godmother in Bolivia, long story), I still love multi-function practicality of spaces, and yes, I still love playing Dutch Blitz. I didn’t learn much four-part harmony in any Mennonite settings, so that association for me is null. I have yet to veganize whoopie pies, but someday I might. I don’t have a “Mennonite last name” and likely never will since I have no intentions of changing my name if/when I get married. But, then, well over half the people in my former Mennonite congregation didn’t, either.
2. I was losing interest in YAR.
This was happening before I left the specific Mennonite congregation where I spent 13 years. If I remember right, a lot of the active conversations were just too high-intellectual and high-theology for me to feel like I really had anything to contribute, and I reached my saturation point with reading them, too. While YAR was fresh and interesting to me when I first discovered it as a happy accident in the course of doing my job as a local news reporter, a few years later… eh, I could take it or leave it.
If that makes me sound shallow or as if I prefer participating in chit-chat than in talking about deep stuff, I wouldn’t know about that. :-p Seemingly-menial conversations also have a place in cementing a well-rounded community, on or off the Internet. I honestly don’t know what specifically I’d change about YAR or what it would look like. A chatroom might be fun, though. I am not a teenager, really.
Thanks for sharing about your journey to the UCC. It’s especially interesting to hear how you enjoyed not having people your age at the church.
I hope that getting to know a different part of the community where you grew up will be a fruitful and eye opening experience.
Thanks for the times you helped out with admin here on the blog. We’ll miss your contribution.
I think a big part of why it was helpful to be the only single twentysomething (there was a married twentysomething couple with two little kids) was because of the place in my life where I found myself: recently un-engaged and working on the grieving and healing process. I didn’t want to meet anyone new who would be a potential Significant Other. I needed to focus on myself. And the old folks at this church seemed to understand that. They really did care about me, despite how surprised they were that a twentysomething would choose to faithfully attend that particular church.
They weren’t necessarily open to changing their old ways of doing things, but since those ways felt new to me, it worked out. Having a specific music style or way of organizing the Sunday service doesn’t matter to me. I’m one of what feels like very few people who enjoys both serious organ hymns and loud rocking-it-out choruses. All one or the other feels a little lacking, but I’m flexible.
I identify with your flexibility in worship style. I’ve found it’s important to be able to get past that to focus on whether the relationships in the community nurture you or not.