I was a church orphan. The church my parents stomped out of in 1964 put out many feelers for their return. My two older sisters both had folks seek to get them to come back to youth fellowship and so on. But nobody ever came asking for me. We attended a Baptist church where my Scoutmaster was the pastor -- but nobody invited me to church camp or BYF or anything. Later, after I became a Xtn in college, I paid close attention whenever my church-going friends talked about church (which wasn't much). I had one friend who was President of the Newman Center; another was a Lutheran pastor's daughter; I knew highly-placed Navigators. NOBODY ever asked me to come to their church.
I might be forgiven for asking, What was wrong with me? Why did nobody seem to want MY participation? I would probably have joined about ANYBODY who just, well, asked me to. As it was, D. and I found our own way back into the Church. Crashed the gates, was about it. And I have spent the last 30 years trying to find the other orphans.
I guess I figured that if nobody was going to give me the love I so desperately wanted, I'd just have to start the giving myself. NOT so that I could feed off their joy (that is a vampiric, unhealthy kind of love): no, I just figured that SOMEBODY's got to start the love and the teaching and the inviting and the giving. Even if it never gets back to me, God's gotta have somebody to create his Church by gathering together the "two or three" in Jesus' name.
I have been very respectful of the Church (with a capital 'C'), though sitting lightly to my loyalty to The UMC or any other current manifestation of Church. I don't want to sound too cynical, but I know only too well that w/o those who will love first, there is no loving back, and the churches fail all too often. This is not an accusation, merely a fact. I offered myself to do the job that needed doing. I am not proud, Lord; I am an unprofitable servant, having only done what my job was.
But this, I suppose is why I am sometimes put off by the high church denominations that incarnate so much of what I otherwise appreciate, like the rich texture of the past. I look to the Anglicans, the Catholics, the Orthodox, and I say in my heart, Where were you? Their apostolic and imperial lineage notwithstanding, they weren't there for me any more than anybody else was. Only Jesus was there. And if he was not good enough, if some other authenticating relationship was needed, then where the hell were those who should have been offering it? And I say the same to my own denomination, in the name of all the other lonely little sheep straying on the hillside, whom I see so clearly, but who are nearly invisible to the sheep who have never left the fold.
In 2000, at the height of the schism-talk w/in my own denomination, I looked out the opening door and considered the possibility of leaving, of simply staking a claim to a ministry undefined by others. NOT of joining with others who were leaving, where I would be yet again an ignored and unwanted camp-follower; nor of trying to lead some big exodus on my own: just going. Am I not a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek -- a fellow elder with all those who minister in Jesus' name?
My thoughts intrigued me, but also scared me. I looked for reasons to stay, and found them. I find no new reasons to leave, but in the quiet of the night I have to be honest. Nothing is keeping me here but my sense that God has not given me leave to go. He may never give me leave to go -- in the sense of leaving the UMC (though I'm sure he'll give me leave to retire someday). And I guess that's okay. But I am troubled.
I will continue to share God and Church with others. But I'm still looking for someone who will give God and Church back to me. And I wonder: am I standing in my own light? Are there others thrusting love in my face, which I am too blind to see? Or is my introverted character simply the way God made me, and living in my head as I do the means by which I see how to love where other, more gregarious types cannot? Or should I stop being so busy, and GO LOOK for those who will be Church with me?
I believe God is with me. And all my desire is to be with him. Show me, O Lord, the path that I should walk. Bring me to your City. Help me create all around me the kingdom of your love.