by Hye Sung
I have a confession: I don’t regularly or actively participate in a faith community. It’s not something I’m proud of, as somebody who works for a religious organization, but honestly, church is more draining than life-giving and I’m done trying to make it work.
At least for now.
It's not that I’ve never had an edifying experience in church. In times of discouragement or discernment, I often return to the promises prophetically uttered by lay ministers in the charismatic church or hear a Friend’s vocal ministry bounce throughout my head and lead me into Light. But time after time, I’ve tried to find my voice in such spaces, I’ve tried to find ways to serve and grow in such communities, and it hasn't worked. I just haven't been able to get grounded in a spiritual community.
So I’m done. At least for a little while. And I think that's OK.
It wasn't always. I've spent a lot of time condemning myself for not living up to my Quakerism, or my Christianity, by being “out of community.”
I still attend Quaker meeting to stay connected to Friends and to enjoy the power of corporate silent worship, but I probably pop in once a month. Sometimes I show up at a church to hear the Bible read and to sing hymns sung by saints before me. But not often.
Here's my question: Can I claim to be Quaker, or even a Christian, when the core expression of our faith is the Church? Can I still claim to follow Jesus when I am out of touch with his body? It's a tough question. I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know if I can know it.
Sometimes I dream of being in a house church, where tongue-talking, poetry reading, deep silence, delicious food, and political demonstrations are all on the agenda. I don't think that's an unrealistic dream. But in the meantime, I will continue to try to bring and be the church wherever I go, and hopefully, sooner than later, I’ll find a way to sustainably, functionally, and joyfully be in community.
That being said, I know I love Jesus, and I am even more confident that he loves me. I know that I encounter the presence of God in staff meetings, when I mutter in tongues while making spreadsheets, when I see people make friends with strangers on the bus, when I watch my nephew play on my brother-in-law’s lap, and while I sip genmaicha and listen to my mother’s spiritual reflections each morning.
Maybe that’s not enough. But for now, it’s what I can handle. It’s what I can do.