When I was younger I regularly attended the United Church with my family. I currently find myself unable to enjoy the church experience, despite it having many elements that I enjoy. Some churches are very dogmatic, but the United Church is not like that – by my judgement the majority of members do not actually believe any classical church dogma. Those who do believe in god at all mostly believe in a very ‘soft’ kind of god, god somehow being the universe or energy or something like that. Almost no one takes the stories of the bible literally, they are instead used more as a lever or tool to explore ideas relevant to the lives of the community. Community is the majority of what the church is, a center for people to interact. It is a group of people who come together to talk about life, eat cookies, and participate in fun activities – if the word church is taken out it sounds like it should be a really good community for me. It is really rather unfortunate for me that I have some fairly significant internal barriers that make it difficult for me to participate.
The major barrier for me is that I feel that the church setup creates many untouchables. Even given how progressive the church my family attends is, the whole community feels like a landmine to me. They sing songs praising amazing god, there are conservatives who take god literally, and the main source of teaching is the bible. The bible is not taken literally, it is treated as a book of moral stories. Though I think it is true that many of the stories in the bible can be swung in positive ways, there is no particular reason it has any corner on the market for meaningfulness – except for tradition. Thus we get into what I find to be the paradoxical nature of the church community – it is sustained by tradition, but also stunted. If the church abandoned its dedication to that which actually makes it a church and instead just focused on exploring ideas directly pertinent to the community it would lose the coherence that makes churches a unique community in the first place.
Let me know what you think about church communities,