When I drove by the church building, I was certain this was the place for me. With a Southwestern façade and landscaping of wildflowers and hummingbird feeders in a setting of quiet woods – this was surely the place I could worship and feel a sense of belonging.
I wanted to rush home, grab my journal and find a cozy place near the church’s spring robins – to record my thoughts next to this lovely building.
Instead, I clicked onto their website for meeting times and drove back to the beautiful location the next Sunday.
It was the friendliest church I have ever attended in my entire life. Everyone welcomed me, asked my name and grasped my outstretched hand.
One elderly saint took me on a tour where a I fell in love with the inner décor – the sanctuary painted in a coral background, chairs placed in a welcoming semi-circle, three separate libraries – count ‘em – three! I imagined holding reign over a diverse book club and talking about the Reverend G trilogy.
Hallways with archways reminiscent of Santa Fe’s culture, stenciling at the top of the arches, an eclectic blend of flute, bongos and guitar for the worship segment.
Surely I belonged in this aesthetic setting where no one condemned my single mom status or wondered why I worshiped alone. I noticed several mothers without spouses, hugging their children close as they swayed to the sound of mellow chord progressions.
I wanted to sign up immediately and become a member in this love-infested organism.
Except for one major flaw: Jesus was missing.
No mention of Jesus in their bulletin, no singing about his love in any of the worship songs. Not once was his sweet name spoken during the sermon or the prayers. The homily seemed more like a delicate social treatise on the topic of acceptance.
I liked the idea of acceptance but missed underscoring the Lord who accepted me.
Social justice seemed to be their Savior rather than the man on the cross. And while I applauded their openness and willingness to love everyone, I wondered how that could be accomplished without the Son of Love.
As I left that day and walked sadly down the moss-covered stone steps, I grieved for my journey and another disappointment.
I would not – could not return nor could I accept the open arms of this sweet congregation when the foundation of my faith was so obviously missing.
Hope reaffirms my core value that without Jesus I am lost. And where he is not welcome, I cannot go.
So I drove home, processed the experience in my journal, then played some hymns on the piano that reaffirmed the meaning of the cross.
Although I fought the sadness for several days, I felt grateful that God would surely direct me to the place I need to be.
Even a “no” answer is an arrow that points away from error and toward the truth.
©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh