For no reason I could solidly articulate, I decided to go back to my old church this morning to visit.
Despite being arguably more Pagan than Christian now, and taken deliberate steps away from Evangelical Churchianity, I still miss some aspects of church-based life. This is why I still occasionally visit a few churches, including my sister’s church. And my own former church.
I did kind of wonder at my own presence. No-one there really knows why I left. A very small number of people have a little bit of an idea, but most do not and are not interested enough to come ask. What makes a bit more complicated was that this church is currently in the long and very slow process of merging with another church, one that I also have a few friends at from my previous Christian life. And this morning happened to be a combined service, which was definitely a happy accident.
Churches merging is unusual and I’m kind of glad people in both churches know this. Normally merges happen when two churches get too small to be viable. I don’t think this is happening to either of them, but I do remember when one of them was briefly large enough to consider two morning services. In fact, it is more common for churches to split, often over either doctrine or personality. Or both.
But I didn’t necessarily want to blog about that. Because I also happened to encounter an old friend who I lost track of years ago – he didn’t really attend either church, but he was in my bible study and we got to know each other during that time. And he was there today.
One thing Pagans are aware of is synchronicity. This is where events happen that seem to be guided by supernatural forces. Christians tend to call this “God’s hand”. But whatever it is, it happened today to me.
It was right as I was leaving and had actually stepped off the church property. This old friend didn’t seem totally sure I would recognise him, but I did. It was quickly apparent he did not know my recent history. In fact, he did not know I had had a failed marriage behind me. But in explaining what followed he mentioned the phrase “a personal journey”. And then he said “are you spiritual than religious”, clearly expecting a “yes”. And then he said he’d recently been in Tibet, which is a highly spiritual land.
That’s when I recognised the synchronicity. This was the first person in months from my former Christian circles I could begin to tell that I was “less Christian than I used to be”. I was meant to find him today. All the doubt about putting my toes back into the church evaporated. All the shenanigans of setting up my whole weekend so that I could be there on time this morning all felt worth it. He even understood the problem of not being able to take someone along with me on such a journey. (I’ve posted before about this: another person still firmly inside a way of thinking will likely not understand your journey because they’re not asking the same questions as you are.)
If anything, this was a confirmation that whilst my journey is my journey, many others have been down similar paths. And the really interesting thing about striking out on your own spiritual path is that when you start talking about it, it is those who have also done this that you get the recognition and encouragement from.