Finding a church home. Again.

It just happened to be baby dedication Sunday at the largest Methodist church in the Atlanta area and I was feeling starkly under-accessorized.

You hear about the southern churches that treat the center aisle like a runway–and I had stumbled into that sanctuary.

Granted, it was baby dedication Sunday and the perfect opportunity for families to show off their coordination–but I was still blown away by the labels and jewelry I saw across the pews.

I should have worn more bracelets.

One of the best parts and hardest parts about starting again in a new city is finding a church.

It’s such a personal, chemical kind of thing.

I have my list of “criteria” and a memory of a feeling in tow each Sunday morning.

When I first moved to Winston-Salem, I searched for years. It was hard and by the time I found REVO (one of my favorite Sunday mornings), I had probably visited 10 churches on some kind of repetition hoping to find my place.

At the end of it all I found REVO on the recommendation of a friend who had attended the same church as me in Boone, N.C.

Then Boston was easier for a perhaps sad reason.

There were very few churches to pick from that were feasible enough for me to get to on a regular basis.

I found Union United Methodist Church on my second try. A lucky Google search, a church in one of my favorite neighborhoods, and a reputation for being socially progressive.

The choir’s rendition of “Love Lifted Me” brought tears that morning and I knew I had to come back.

Atlanta is trickier than Boston in that there are approximately 5,000 churches to learn about or visit. I’ve asked friends. I’ve visited two. And I need to keep learning a lot more.

So far I have been to the uber traditional United Methodist Church and then an equally uber socially liberal United Methodist Church.

I feel like Little Red Riding Hood. I need something in the middle.

This Sunday I visited a “Contemporary Service” and quickly things seemed awry….

It seems like every Sunday has a different little set of challenges on not being 100 percent comfortable or 100 percent what I’m looking for.

While it can be disappointing to not find a church home right away, I’ll never take for granted the huge gift of learning: what exactly I need — what exactly I believe — and what exactly I expect and want in a church.

You don’t really get to be that self-reflective without reason!

If you’re looking for a new church currently here is my modified (ongoing) checklist:

  • – Are you looking for a denomination?
  • – If so, why? This will help clarify for the following questions.
  • – Are there certain belief structures that are sacred to you?
  • – What level of involvement are you looking for?
  • – How long do you plan to be involved? Who else does this affect?
  • – Do you want to be able to do missions? Internationally?
  • – How important is accessibility to the pastoral team?
  • – Are you looking for certain qualifications / degrees / distinctions for the pastoral team?
  • – What type of message do you prefer?
  • – Do you want traditional? Contemporary? A church with varying types of services?
  • – What is the most important part of the service for you? Worship? Message? Fellowship?
  • – Is location a factor?
  • – Do you care how old the church is?
  • – What about the church’s stance on social issues? It’s now easy to search congregations friendly to all types of love.
  • – Do I know anyone at local churches? Or anyone with connections to local churches?

While this list is ever being added to; I found that I’ve really had to meditate on all of my answers. And it helps. You’re focused on what you need.

Until next Sunday, the saga continues — but in the meantime I am thankful for another Sunday in a church. And another Sunday to make sure I know all of my answers to the questions above!

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