Sabbaticals and Homecomings
In my first two years or so of blog-reading, I stuck mostly to the large group blogs dealing with LDS issues. However, since joining this blog, I have been actively branching out, looking for other voices. That’s how I stumbled on Kathy’s journal, the archives of which moved me to tears more than once this weekend. Blogging with Jana introduced me to her lovely site and to that of her husband, John. John’s most recent post on ordaining his son to the priesthood gave me pause. The paragraphs that struck me most in John’s piece, however, had nothing to do with the ordination. He wrote:
“Yesterday was my second day back to church (my own home church, the local LDS ward) in three months. Now that I think about it, “I went back to church” is kind of an odd thing to say, considering that I’ve been aggressively visiting a variety of churches for the past few months.
Overall, it was a pleasant though emotionally complex experience. It was fast and testimony meeting—open mic Sunday—and every one shared positive personal experiences and witnesses. Not one person used explicitly exclusive language (e.g. “this Church is true” and not, “this is the *only* true Church”), which I appreciated. Ironically, I think that my being generous with people from other traditions for the past few months allowed me to experience the expressions from believers within my own religion more generously.”
About two years ago, I took a planned sabbatical from church. Four months to visit other churches, to read, to be with myself, to recuperate from months of running the YW in a struggling branch, to prepare for my wedding, to ask questions and linger with them, to get my groove back. I was looking to fall in love again, to re-encounter the gospel through the lens of the woman I had become over the last eight years. So I took a break. During this period, I attended a local Unitarian church. Why? A google search. I wanted to see what a congregation looked like that had a female minister and the openly welcomed gays and lesbians.
After my first Sunday, I wrote the following to a friend:
While the whole service was interesting, one thing in particular left me hungry-for-more: The voice of this woman before the congregation, leading with eloquence and strength. At times I just closed my eyes and listened to the sound of it. She’s not the token female speaker at General Conference . . . She was bright, funny, articulate, probing, thoughtful. Actually, she seemed like someone we would have been friends with, someone to talk about reiki, family, and politics over tea at the corner cafe.
I am deeply grateful to this minister, who indulged me in several conversations about faith journeys. After several weeks, I began to feel a tinge of longing for miss my Home Church. And I think that’s what I was waiting for – the missing to help me remember what I loved.
- I missed the company Mormon women.
- I missed the sacrament.
- In some ways, I missed the conflict that kept me on my toes, asking questions.
- I missed open-mike Sunday (testimony meeting), and the not-so occasional testimony that was simple or raw or wondering or earnest.
- I missed being involved with a congregation that, because it was “home,” could call upon me to help out even when it was inconvenient – because that’s what you do for family.
I understand what John is saying. In the months following my sabbatical I have felt much more . . . patience? generosity? peace? . . . towards the church. I am less likely to mix up my active questions about larger policies with the efforts of good people trying to make it work, right here, right now. (All that said, I’m taking in an Episcopal service next Sunday — ah, the MUSIC!)