There was a time in my life when church looked like going to a building every weekend. At church, I’d hear talks about how to practice my Christian faith in ways that were meaningful and relevant to me. I’d see friends and mentors with whom I shared relationships rooted in our similar understandings of Christianity. Musicians would lead me in singing words that resonated with the thoughts and feelings I had about my faith at that time. Most weekends, I’d leave church feeling like my soul had been fed.
Since beginning the process of deconstructing my lifelong Christian faith, church no longer looks like going to a building every weekend to listen to people talk, see friends, and sing songs. Church, in this form, no longer feeds my soul the way it used to.
Despite my decrease in formal church attendance, something a pastor once said on subject of church has stuck with me. While teaching one Sunday morning, he explained the Greek word for “church” used in the New Testament by early Christians actually had nothing to do with a physical building. Rather, this Greek word ekklēsia refers to an assembly, a gathering of people around a shared faith.
As I reflected back on that teaching, I decided to pull out my trusted old study Bible and flip to the Greek study section. Underlined by me years ago in the definition of ekklēsia is this: “[Ekklēsia] does not refer to a building but rather the people who make up the community.”*
Church isn’t a building; it’s a community.
I’ve not found a local group who’s established a weekly gathering based around the experience of reevaluating one’s faith system. Therefore, church in my case really can’t look like spending Sunday mornings in a building with like-minded people singing songs and talking about Jesus in ways that resonate with my current stage of faith. A church like that just doesn’t exist where I am.
That’s why writing has become my church.
If church is about people gathering together, then writing is how I’ve begun connecting myself to a larger body of people who share similar spiritual experiences and views as my own. Through writing, I share my story and the challenges I’ve faced in my faith journey. I’ve found the writings of others who are or have been where I am, and whose thoughts welcome me into a sense of community. Through my writing and through the words of others, I’ve found new music and new liturgy that deeply resonates with me and my current understanding of God.
I’ve accepted this unorthodox practice of writing as my “church.” It’s what feeds my soul and draws me into a gathering where I feel like I belong. I think of the saying “To everything there is a season,” (said either by the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes or The Byrds, depending on who you want to give attribution to). In terms of my own life, this isn’t the time to sit in rows listening to the Christian teachings I always have. It’s not time to sing the same songs, or even necessarily gather with the same people.
It’s time to gather where my community is.
It’s time to write.
*NLT Study Bible, p. 2222–2223. Tyndale House Publishers.