The Year I Stopped Going to Church

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My family and I stopped going to church this year. Yes, COVID, but this decision had been brewing for a while. 2020 seemed to give us the perfect excuse to stay home and I don’t know that we’re looking back.

Both my husband and I grew up in church-going homes. We were active in our youth groups, we went to church throughout young adulthood and the first part of parenthood. As our son grew up we were never very involved though. We would show up on Sunday, smile, and wave, and then return home. There were constant offers for increased connection. Mom groups, service groups, mentoring opportunities, and retreats were always available, but I held the congregation at arms length. I craved the community that church had always brought me, especially as a new mom. We promised we would become more involved as our son got older, but something always held us back.

Church as an adult was different. I looked up from the songbook one day and realized that we all looked the same. Was that because of proximity or was that because other families didn’t feel welcome here? And if it was proximity, why did everyone who lived around me look like me? I tuned my ears, listening for the conversations that I needed to hear to decide to stay. I listened for those around me to indicate that this was a safe place for my family and all families. Instead, beliefs I once accepted as truth looked hypocritical through the lens that I had developed as a young professional. My own life experience, especially the experiences of 2020 as it unfolded, showed me that those sitting in the pew next to me were not moving forward like I had. I didn’t want this type of “community” for my family.

I watched as the world lurched forward through what seemed like the slowest and most fleeting year I have lived. I had conversations with friends and family. In one breath they bowed their head to pray and in the next, they spit intolerance for anyone different. These conversations, surrounding racial equality, COVID, our elected officials, poverty, all that 2020 brought us, left me heartbroken. This wasn’t the Christianity I had signed up for in middle school. I wasn’t proud to be a part of those churches or that community. Instead, I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I knew my decision was made.

This year has helped my husband and I finally decide that the churches we grew up in did not and do not represent who we have become. They don’t reflect how we want to raise our kids. I refuse to blindly follow teachings because it’s comfortable at the expense of others. More so, I refuse to pass that thinking down to my son. So we don’t go to church anymore.

We both have deeply rooted beliefs, we share stories of Christianity with our son. We spent more time outdoors this year, we talked about creation and purpose. We said prayers of thanks in our warm car, in the woods, before bed. We discussed privilege. We taught unconditional love and acceptance of others and personal responsibility. We gave of our money and time to others in need. We were intentional about relationships with friends and family. That was church for us. And it seemed to align with what we believe Christianity to be.

I know that good churches are out there. I know I shouldn’t judge a religion based on a handful of people and experiences. I know that church looks different for everyone and that it’s important to have a community of people surrounding you. One day, when we can find the right church that we’re proud to be a part of, we’ll be back. But for right now we don’t go to church.

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