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Sunday, January 29, 2012

should i stay or should i go?!

since my dad announced his retirement a few weeks ago, people have been asking me whether or not we will remain at the church after they leave. i don't know, i tell them.  we'd like to stay becos the kids are established here for sunday school and choir, but i just don't know.  i don't know how it will be, seeing another pastor in my dad's pulpit.  i'm not looking forward to it.

almost 5 years ago my FIL retired and we left hubby's church, altho he kept his membership there.  two years later, while pregnant with the twins, hubby transferred his membership to my church after a debacle at his (teal deer:  the interim pastor there cleaned roles and hubby's family was removed when they weren't supposed to.  nice church.)  we knew dad wasn't going to retire soon so we settled in at mine.

well, someday arrived, and my parents are leaving at the end of march.  as i've eluded in previous posts, i'm not enthralled by what is coming out of seminary now.  i know some pastors whose pastoral care is lacking (some don't do hospital or nursing home visits) and others who make drastic changes the first month they arrive.  it would hurt to see my church undergo such changes.

i've been keeping a running list of pros and cons of staying or going.  this is what i'm thinking about:

reasons to stay

- my kids like sunday school, and the boy is in choir.  our church is one of the few in the area with a thriving sunday school program or children's choir.  i like my own sunday school class.  it's the only hour in my week where i don't have to deal with the kids. (sad, isn't it?)

- i'm familiar with the people who come to my church.  it's a cozy country church, full of eager and active members.  our congregation is known for their meals (pork and sauerkraut, chicken and waffle), and many members are active in the faith community outside of our church.

- my church is rather conservative.  we don't have communion every sunday, we don't cross ourselves, we don't anoint ourselves when we enter the sanctuary like other area lutheran churches.  i'm not opposed to those activities, but but it would feel weird to start doing that.

reasons to leave

- my church is 10 miles from my house.  it takes 15-20 minutes to drive there.  evening activities like choir make the day very long, and driving there in snow/ice is not fun.  the intersection at the bottom of the hill has been the scene of many accidents (including my dad years ago) and i hate crossing there.

- the boy doesn't go to school with the kids who go to my church.  well, the kids there go to at least 5 different school districts, but it'd be nice if the kids went to the same school.

- this is a big one for me, and it's not really good - i feel like an outsider in my church.  yes, the preacher's daughter feels like an outsider in her own damn church.  i've felt this for years.  when we arrived 19 years ago, many of the kids my age were away to college.  they knew each other from little on, and i was the new kid.  there was no sunday school class for me - i could either join the high school class (which was too young for me) or the young adult class (full of young parents older than me, couldn't relate).  i wound up in my mom's sunday school class, full of baby boomers, but i liked my teacher and liked the people there.

when i got married and had children, i thought i'd have more in common with the people my age.  i still felt like the odd person out - i'm a SAHM;  the other moms work.  i live "far away";  the others live closer to my church.  i like to knit; the others think it's weird to knit.  when i look at other families, with their new cars, big houses, vacations, i feel very poor.  who knows what their financial situations are, but it's a bitter pill for me to swallow sometimes.

the other thing that has actually been brought up recently is the "cliquishness" of the congregation.  to be fair, my church was established by a merger of three congregations, and there are many old families (or "clans" as i think of it).  i'm not saying that there are dividing lines - my congregation gets along pretty well - but, well, a family is obviously going to stick together. i'm not related to anyone in that congregation, so why would i expect be included in out of church activities with them?

so yes, i do feel alone in my own church.  it's probably my own doing - i'm not one to follow a crowd anyway - but it hurts to stand and wait for the boy to finish with choir, and have no one ask me how i'm doing.  or how my kids are.  why should i stay at a church that makes me feel that way?

where would we go?  there's a lutheran church a half block from my house.  the boy went there for preschool and bible school.  some of his classmates attend there.  it's the church where my in laws transferred.  it certainly would be convenient for us to attend.  i'm just not sure if it's the church for us.

there are half a dozen churches within a two block radius of our home.  i'm not opposed to visiting them, but i really want a lutheran church.  there's a catholic church and a synagog across the river (yes, it's crossed my mind to visit them) but i don't think i'd feel good at those either.

this is what i'm looking for in a church for us:

- a sunday school program for the children.  you'd be surprised how many churches don't have sunday school programs anymore.  that's just sad.

- a children's choir.  the boy loved children's choir and i want the little ones to have the same experience.

- a youth group for when the kids are older.  the boy will be old enough for one in a couple of years.

my kids are the deal breaker here.  the church has to have active children's programming.  while i feel pretty established and confident in my faith and instill it in my children, i desire the additional support an active church has.

- a pastor who doesn't ram social issues down my throat.  or expect me to become a catholicized lutheran.  (good luck with that.)

- a pastor who will come to the hospital if something happens to me. (you'd be surprised how many pastors refuse to visit shut-ins or members in the hospital.  some won't do in home communions.  that's sad and pathetic).

i hate that my faith is being shaken.  somedays, my faith is all i have.  this is one of the things i hate about being a preacher's daughter.  hubby reminded me of a comment his aunt (also a lutheran pastor, she's in nova scotia and rocks) made when we got married - maybe we should go to a church where neither of our dads are.  a new church where we'd be ourselves, not pastor's kids.  13 years too late on that.

i guess i have a lot to think about.  pray for us, to make a wise decision

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