Hope for the Holidays

October 26, 2017

Take Care of Yourself

October 26, 2017

Wanted: A Church to Call Home

October 26, 2017
Christmas decor
KEEP MOVING
Nantucket church steeple

The spiritual is one of the universal dimensions of grief, along with the physiological, psychological and social dimensions. What we believe—or don’t believe—affects how we grieve.

I grew up seeing widows in the church, actively involved until very old age. I took for granted that the church would meet my spiritual and social needs when I was widowed; but as many other widows have found, that did not happen. Of all places, church was the place where everyone else seemed to be part of a family. Sunday was the loneliest day of my week. Instead of finding solace there, church was too often an emotional sinkhole. I described that pain here in a blog I wrote right after Easter 2016.

My faith is an essential part of me. You can’t really understand me if you don’t understand how my faith has shaped my life. Years ago I went to the funeral of a devout Presbyterian lady. The minister said, “She can’t be defined outside her Presbyterian-ness.” I can’t be defined outside my Baptist-ness. So why was the spiritual part of my grief hardest and longest in healing? in reclaiming joy?

Only now, eight-and-one-half years after Lev’s death, can I finally say that I feel at home in church again. Only recently have I been able to say consistently and honestly on Sunday mornings, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”

As a widow, I find that I need three places to call home. Corpus Christi, Dallas and Nantucket meet different needs; and I am, for the first time in my life, a needy person. Now I am discovering that I need three church homes as well—my personal trinity I suppose.

Three Churches to Call Home

Oddly, I first reclaimed joy in worship at the First Congregational Church of Nantucket. The first Sunday I worshiped there, I left with the words of the old hymn on my lips, “My faith has found a resting place….” I found both peace and friendship there. By 2016 I had found my summer home, my summer church and my summer pastor. That gave me new hope for the remaining 10 months of the year.

Last fall I formally moved back to our family’s church home in Corpus Christi, and that remains the most complicated part of my spiritual healing and recovery, because I am not the same person I was as half a couple. The old connections no longer work, and I’m still searching for new connections. This fall the pieces are finally coming together, through Hurricane Harvey and my church’s and my pastor’s response. Indeed, God works in mysterious ways.

Wilshire Baptist Church

And finally, I have found a spiritual resting place at Wilshire Baptist Church—another surprise. I had expected to find a Dallas spiritual home in a church filled with Baylor alumni whom I knew. That didn’t happen. Big churches, like big cities, are hard. I quit trying.

But this fall I decided to attend Wilshire Baptist Church. I know almost no one there, and I had to rely on GPS to find my way. But it satisfies my needs. I feel a connectedness to my childhood faith in the traditional worship service in a sanctuary much like the church I grew up in in Texarkana. I connect to the commitment of the church and the leadership of the senior minister to be “Open to all. Closed to none.”

Sunday morning the opening hymn at Wilshire was “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place,” and we closed with a hymn sung to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” In between, Dr. George Mason preached an extraordinary sermon on Martin Luther’s legacy, “A Conscientious Faith.” I knew when I left that at last, God has restored the joy of my salvation. I have found three churches to call home.

What has been your experience in dealing with the spiritual dimension of grief?
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Ella’s memoir, RECLAIMING JOY, is scheduled for publication in 2018 by the Baylor University Press.

4 comments

  1. Ella, what an honor for Gary and mento be included in your trinitarian spiritual home. We love you dearly and are deeply grateful for your friendship.

    1. As you well know, from our first encounter in 2014 there have been too many coincidences to be coincidental. So much good in my life has stemmed from that first visit to FCC. Yesterday in my “author talk,” I read the passage in my book that describes that first visit. I told the group, “My book is a memoir of my journey from grief to joy, but it is also a love letter to Nantucket. For me peace is a place.” (Sorry I’m slow responding, but I’ve been on the move the past few days!)

  2. Good words, Ella. My brother and sister-in-law spent years in Virginia looking for a place to worship that was like 7th & James Baptist of Waco (or Wilshire Baptist in Dallas) … and ended up having to leave the Baptist denomination to find that church. Mary and I too felt an instant connection with Gary and Debra at First Congregational in Nantucket.

    1. Yes, if you can’t find anything within the box that works, you have to be willing to think outside the box, outside the norms. Just needing more than one church, one pastor, one denomination is outside the norm. I don’t think i can legally be a member of 3 three churches & 2 denominations. First Congregational Nantucket liberated me in a way, because I went out of curiosity, not to worship, and yet I had a profound worship experience, which led these last two summers to a sustained relationship with the church, the pastor (and wife) and the people. I recognize I’m very fortunate to have 3 places where I can look for a church home. Unlike most, I am not restricted to a single geographic location for my church home. I could put my membership anywhere. Shows I’m getting old, but it boils down to where I want my funeral & who I want to conduct it. I think I’d like all 3 pastors.

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