I worked for a wonderful little church for seven years. Well, it wasn't so little after a while, but still, you could at least know just about everyone at least a little bit. When I left, I promised to stay completely away for a full year to give the new staff member space. In my mind it was the most supportive thing I could do--just get the heck out of the way, I worked with children and youth programs and I knew the families needed to turn to the new person when times were tough or life sat down hard on their family. Advice was different from different corners; my professional guidelines don't explicitly say you have to leave-- just stay out of leadership for two years, other friends in the biz said stay away for three years. Someone heard six months was enough. I thought a year would be enough but we could reassess at about the year mark to see if more time away was needed.
But who knew life would do this? That my dad would get sick? That church members who feel like family to us would die? That I'd want nothing more than to sit in a pew and sing the hymns I've been singing since childhood and just be.
I should have found another church. But it's not that easy. I can't usually just slip in the back and sit down, I know people at all the local churches in my denomination. Maybe I could go to another faith, I drove by a Quaker meeting house the other day and while that's a good fit for me theologically, they wouldn't have the rituals that I find so comforting. I regularly attend an online service from the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and it offers a great alternative to a bricks and mortar church.
But I'm a person who loves the smell of a church kitchen. And I love that watery coffee that only perks in those huge urns. And stale cookies. I love the cookies that no one at home was going to eat, so someone brought them to church for coffee hour. And yes, I'm totally serious. I feel the spirit move in the service and with the music and the moments of complete silence except for baby noise, but the place where I feel the spirit the strongest is over a steaming sink full of dirty dishes. It's the real connections with real people. This is part of the reason I couldn't work for a church any longer, as much as I loved making church happen for other folks, I missed having it happen for me.
There's nothing to be done. I knew what I was getting into when I took the job. I knew what I was getting into when I left. It's just sad.
Part of living a life of gratitude and happiness is honoring the sadness. It's what makes the soil of the soul rich so that the love can grow.
Cross posted to The Natural Happy Store