Home-centered, Church-unsupported #CopingWithCOVID19

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the blessing of the gift of true prophecy and the cursing of being universally disbelieved. When “home-centered, church-supported” became a buzzword, and gospel instruction began to be pushed toward families and away from the wards and stakes, I said that this move would destroy community and would harm people on the margins – the teenage convert who attended church alone, the single people who live alone or with non-LDS roommates, the children who attend church with extended family members but not with their parents. People said I was getting worked up over nothing.

It turns out, I was Cassandra.

I didn’t want to write this post. I like writing happy things. Or unhappy things that have a happy ending. I was taught in the business world never to bring up a problem if I didn’t have a proposed solution. And at church, we’re taught never to bring up problems. Period. But there’s an entire book of scripture called Lamentations. And if lamenting is sacred enough to be part of our canon, I’m going to offer my sacred lamentation here today.

Many people have written about the harm that a lack of equal access to the sacrament has heaped on those who don’t have an adjacent man. They’ve said it better than I can. I’m going to focus on the loss of church meetings and the double-loss that being forgotten about can bring.

I’m the only church member in my household. I rent out two rooms in my house to other people who are not LDS. I attended church alone for most of my teenage years as well, so being the only church participant at home is nothing new to me. What is new to me is being cut off from the church.

The church isn’t a building. The church is a gathering. Jesus teaches “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20. I have no one to gather with. Home church might work well for people who are in homes where there can be a church. But two or three are not gathered in my home. It’s just one. In ordinary times, I would invite people over and make my own gathering. But my state is under a stay at home order, so I can’t.

And Salt Lake doesn’t have anything useful to say about that. I’m an “unusual circumstance”. Even if that were true (and it’s not – there are many saints who are in situations like mine), Jesus taught “If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” Matthew 18:12-13

Jesus cares about the “unusual circumstances”. He cares so much that he leaves those for whom the church is working well to go after and find those for whom there is no church. I find it instructive that Jesus finds the sheep on the mountains. In scripture, mountains are where people go to meet God.

When I’ve expressed my sorrow at being denied church during this pandemic, people are quick to remind me that I can still pray and read the scriptures and commune with God. It’s true. I can do that. But even Jesus showed that we need the church. He found the sheep who was communing with God and brought that sheep to the church.

Maybe that sheep needed the church. And maybe the church needed that sheep – to tell the church what the sheep learned about God on the mountain.

I don’t know the solution. Maybe there isn’t one right now. But I would welcome at least an acknowledgement that this situation doesn’t work for people like me. We can’t be hand-waved away as some lesser form of church member who failed to get with the program and are now reaping the just rewards of our singleness. We can’t be written off as less than ideal aberrations who can be safely ignored because we’re few in numbers. We are part of the flock, too, and we’ve been separated from it.

I’m going to make the most of my time grazing in the mountains alone with God, but I really look forward to the day when the Good Shepherd picks me up and carries me on His shoulders back to where I can gather with the saints again. I’m tired of being home-centered, church-unsupported.

Trudy

Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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12 Responses

  1. Chiaroscuro says:

    you are absolutely right. church is not a place. church is not a curriculum. church is gathering into a body that uplifts and supports each other. i hope you can find a way to fill this need to gather and become part of a whole

  2. Alb says:

    Our relief society has been hosting a zoom lesson for 50 minutes every Sunday, and Easter we had a sacrament meeting talk and a few musical numbers. I think it’s tricky-but maybe that could be a solution? Would you be able to request it?

  3. Rita says:

    This is so important. A big reason for church is to gather, and that’s not working at all for many members of the church right now. I fear that church at home is going to continue for several more months. If we continue doing nothing for individuals who don’t live with other members, they will feel cut off from the church for a very, very long time. My ward needs to do better.

  4. Autumn says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling. I sometimes found church meetings boring or frustrating, and I’m very much an introvert who likes to spend a lot of time alone. But my social needs are part of my spiritual needs – I need community just as much as I need private prayer. And now I feel cut off and abandoned.

  5. Kaxlen says:

    I have felt this way for so long. When they cut the meeting block down to two hours, I felt like I already saw so little of the people in my ward. We were already discouraged from socializing before and after meetings, and there’s already a big push to avoid asking anyone to meet during the week. Getting any sort of activity organized is like pulling teeth because everyone sees them as an inconvenience. All this is presented as trying to reduce demands on people’s time. I’ve started to feel a constant internal desire to push back – I don’t feel like we’re spending enough time together to ever have conversations that extend past the superficial. I already only saw those who shared my faith for three hours a week, now we’re going to cut it more?

    Often I’ve felt: What ever happened to a religion not requiring the sacrifice of all things not having the power to generate the faith necessary for salvation? Don’t we covenant to consecrate all our time and talents? Since when did interacting with others become a burden we had to endure?

    I realize that this is likely leader and ward specific, and I recognize that I live in a more wide-spread rural ward which certainly makes the problem harder, but I can’t imagine my experience is uncommon. I sometimes feel like we’ve become little more than a hobby network of people who share a common belief, rather than a tight-knit community of people who know and care about each other.

  6. Anna says:

    I agree with Kaxlen. The feeling of community has slowly disappeared and now there is nothing to miss with being unable to attend. I don’t miss what the church has become. I miss terribly what it was 40-50 years ago. Back when it was a big, semi happy, dysfunction family. Before correlation killed the intellectual discussions of the gospel, before the block killed visiting and sisterhood at Relief Society, before Sunday primary made primary reverent instead of fun. For me, home church was just one more step in the corporation of the church abandoning the members.

    I have felt abandoned for years. In fact, I volunteered to “home church” myself several years ago because regular church didn’t meet any of my needs. It wasn’t uplifting or inspiring but used shame and guilt to get people to obey. It wasn’t loving, but if you obeyed then you could get the magic ticket that said you were “worthy.” Worthy to go to a boring but pretty building and get told that God only really cared about my husband. There was no time between meetings or before or after to chat because the next ward was coming in and we needed to stick to the assembly line schedule. Hump two three four. Yeah church feels exactly as spiritual as the army. Lessons and talks became nothing but regurgitated conference talks about the same old same old. I needed something as a woman and lessons about how great the men were just didn’t do it. I needed to heal from an abusive childhood and all I got from church was how bad I was to “not forgive” and to need to heal and how much God loves my abuser, but apparently not me. So, I volunteered for “home church” because attending “building church” was simply more harm than good.

    So, for those of you missing the social connection of church, I don’t know what to say, except that some of us were starving for connection years ago and found church connections superficial and false. Nobody reached out to me when I went inactive.

  7. Violadiva says:

    Trudy. Thank you for this sacred showing.

  8. Lily says:

    As a never-married childless 50-something, I had the same reaction when they announced the home centered learning. “Yet another program that does not take my situation or needs into account.” What perplexes me is that a large percent of the Church is in a similar boat: divorced, never married, childless, widowers, etc. Why don’t that take that into account when coming up with these programs? How is this going to work for many of the members? Surely they are looking at their own demographics, aren’t they? Are they going to hold onto this traditional family crap at the expense of all the other members? The leaders come up with program after program trying to address the large numbers leaving the Church. They are leaving because you have nothing to offer them. Case in point.

  9. Heather says:

    Love this Trudy. You articulate so well what so many are experiencing.

  10. SisterStacey says:

    Trudy, thank you!! Every word you wrote, I could (except for the roommates part). My ministering brother was bringing the sacrament and stopped after the April 16th guidelines. I decided to start attending my local Catholic Church as they live stream mass. I will be able to partake of communion.
    That’s what bothering me about all these guidelines… so a solemn assembly during Conference totally counts to bless everyone participating..But nooo… you can’t bless the sacrament over FaceTime!

  11. Miss California says:

    So true. When I lived in the Oakland, CA stake, the stake president gave a talk where he reviewed our stake’s demographics. His point was that this “ideal family” that we picture, was a distinct minority. That most of the stake members were not married in the temple with children at home, and that we needed to get away from that model as the ideal as we serve/teach/lead/live in the church.

  1. September 23, 2020

    […] single, female, and do not live with other church members, the cancellation of church services was very challenging for me. I sometimes went weeks without being able to take the sacrament, until the father of one of the […]

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