Just over a year ago, Chad and I, and the rest of our community, lost our church. It was a satellite location of a larger evangelical church that I had attended for several years. We set up our small satellite community in an elementary school every Sunday morning, held a worship service, children’s church, and youth group, and then packed it all back up again. The sermon came for a while via video from the main campus, then later live from our campus pastor. And then after two and a half years, our satellite campus closed.
This week, we attended an evangelical free church that sets up in the local Catholic high school. It’s actually a church plant from the church where Chad’s best friend and his wife attend, about 30 minutes from our house.
At one point before this visit, I said to Chad, “we miss what we had, so maybe we’ll find what had at another plant like that, where church is built each week, where the people depend on each other for the service to happen at all.” So I thought, maybe, this would feel like home. On the other hand, I was also fearful of it feeling too much like what we had, and bringing up the pain of what we’ve lost. And to some degree, that’s what happened for me.
I sat in the service looking around, seeing the young mom with her kids who reminded me of my friend Nancy from our satellite church. I saw an older couple and it reminded me of Frank and Kathy from our church. I saw teens that made me think of Kristen and Cam, Stephanie and Rebecca, Mary, Lilli and Ariana from the youth group Chad and I and Jenny used to lead. I looked at the chairs and equipment that had been set up that morning, and saw in my memories Dan and Michelle and Bill setting up our curtains and chairs and carts. I saw an A/V team that reminded me of Shelli and Jack, Patrick and Nick; a worship team that brought memories of Tony and Ryan, Chad and Tom, Alice and Brian. I saw snacks and coffee that, honestly, would have been put to shame by Steve and Tracy and Sue. I didn’t see where the children disappeared to in this church, but I could imagine them and their leaders, because I can still picture Kelly and Susan and Cassie and Chris teaching our kids, Annabelle and Timmy, Eli and Hannah and MiTasia. I saw a trailer sitting outside and pictured Jonathan or Frank backing it into position for the carts. The pastor got up at this church to preach and I saw Cameron stand before us, pray for us, and shepherd us.
And the tears welled up in my eyes to remember our people, to remember our church. I miss it still. But I miss it for two main reasons: those people, who I love, and the active role we all had to play to make it happen. Church happened because we all showed up, and it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t. It needed us. God needed us to be His church.
But those were the only two reasons. As I sat in this service, I was reminded that I didn’t love our little satellite church because of the worship music or the sermons or the conservative beliefs that, to me, contrast with the contemporary… everything else. I miss my evangelical satellite church, and if it hadn’t closed, I know I would still be there. But not because of the evangelical-ness of it. So sitting in this service, I was reminded that we are right to look at other denominations, that we are right to look for a new church, because the one we loved is gone, and that’s not the denomination where we belong anyway.
I haven’t yet connected to a church where I feel like I can see myself and Chad attending on a regular basis, but I think we’re closer to it when we visit these traditional mainline churches: Methodist, and Episcopal, and Lutheran.
This evangelical free church was nice, and I’m glad it exists, because I know how special it can be to build a church together with your friends, to serve together, and live life alongside each other. I hope that’s what these people feel in this church. I wish them all that joy and support and friendship.