This week, I’ve had news that friends are leaving our congregation. No disagreements or unpleasantness – it’s just that they have bought a house recently, and there is a really nice congregation in their new neighbourhood. One of those congregations where there are lots of ways to get involved but no pressure to start running the place on your third Sunday there. There’s a choir they can both join. It’s walking distance from their new home. I’m really happy of them.
But it’s sad news, too. Of course it is. It’s hard when friends decide to leave your church, and maybe especially when they are still in the same city. Yes, they’ve moved away but they are also still here so why aren’t they here?
Other friends have also made this choice recently. They were going to a church up the street from ours and sometimes we’d do joint congregational events and see each other there. They decided to move church homes not because they were moving family homes but because they found out about a church closer to home that seemed like a really good fit. Just a couple of blocks away, actually. Much easier for their family – both on Sunday mornings and for any events during the week, too. It made great logistical sense.
Ideologically, it works, too. Participating in parish worship becomes akin to that locavore bumper sticker on your bike. The people you see at church on Sunday are the people you see around you during the week. Church becomes part of your local community life rather than another elsewhere activity in the weekly routine. A terribly old-fashioned idea, really. Worship where you are.
I get all this. Still, it’s sad to see friends go.
Because of my work in a congregation, choosing our family church hasn’t been about proximity to home. To get to our church, we pass by four others, and there are more still in closer proximity to our front door. I wonder sometimes which one we would choose if we were choosing. But instead, we chose the home and the church chose us. And I’ve nothing to complain about because our church is still fairly local. It takes half an hour to walk there – a good and doable distance – and easier going than coming due to the hills. When I was growing up, my family went to a big downtown church and we lived in the suburbs so Sunday mornings included the drive in. I remember being planted in the middle of the backseat as the car headed down the highway and my mum put on her lipstick in the front. Through taut lips, she told me to stop kicking my feet on the seat, and I watched my big sister picked long fallen hairs off her long navy coat, letting each of them fly away out the window. In the summer, the car would be too hot, the windows would have to be open all the way, and Mum would have to comb through my hair again when we got downtown. In the fall, we’d drive by the river to see the hills on the other side changing colour. On Christmas Eve, there would be black ice.
Our current local church is close enough that last Christmas Day, we biked there. (I must say, that felt very, very far from my own childhood.) And so we’ve set that as a goal for this year, too, weather cooperating. When we did it last year, Blue was on a balance bike (one of those great pedalless inventions), but this year he is working on going down hill on his ‘real’ bike. Terror and pride. We spent yesterday afternoon practising around and around the block. The Spouse kept place with Blue to pick up when necessary. Beangirl flew on ahead speedy as speedy can be. Plum and I trotted along behind as the mobile cheerleading squad. He was very thrilled to be out and about in the neighbourhood and waggled all little limbs enthusiastically. Two months and vigorous. I think that by Christmas he will be more than ready for a seat on the back of my bike, and then the world will be our oyster. Or at least the neighbourhood.